China showed why it is the top-ranked women's volleyball team in the world last night when it held off five match points in the fifth game to record a 15-6, 15-8, 9-15, 14-16, 16-14 victory over the United States National Team before a near-capacity crown at the Smith Center.
The United States, the second-ranked team in the world, holds a 3-2 edge in the exhibition series, which has two matches remaining.
The Americans led, 14-11, in the final game, but Lang Ping saved two match points with spikes at the net. Another U.S. match point was lost on a serve that went out of bounds. The Americans almost won when Rita Crockett scored at the net, but she lost her balance and fell under the net, causing the point to be disallowed.
Drives by Lang and Chen Zhaodi tied the game, and when Carolyn Becker touched the net attempting a block, China had match point at 15-14. After the teams traded serves, Jian Ying's drive was deflected at the net, but no U.S. player could save the ball.
China controlled the first two games of the match, putting the ball just over the Americans' outstretched arms into open court areas.
The Chinese built a 7-2 lead in the third game, but the Americans scored 10 straight points--four on spikes by 6-foot-5 Flo Hyman.
Debbie Green, a 5-4 setter, was a major factor in the comeback. She repeatedly set up Hyman, 6-3 Paula Weishoff and Sue Woodstra, and scored several points on dinks.
"Debbie's just an awesome center, one of the best you'll see," said United States Coach Arie Selinger. "She has some problems blocking because of her height, but Carolyn (Becker) is a good setter and better on blocking because of her height (6 feet)."
The fourth game was the most exciting. The Americans built a 7-3 lead as Crockett became more assertive herself at the net. She had three drives for points in the game, and four more drives that enabled the Americans to regain their serve. Hyman scored three straight points, two on power kills, for a 14-11 lead.
But the Chinese tied at 14 on two spikes by Lang and a dink by Jian. Laurie Flachmeier gave the Americans a 15-14 lead and Crockett's power kill, through a Chinese double block, gave the Americans the win.
"This tour is just great for us," said Selinger. "It's good training by itself and gives our younger players more experience for the international competition to come (including the World Championships in Peru in September). Before this, we could seldom beat China, so our confidence is high from the tour because we feel we can beat anyone. It's awfully nice to be leading (on the tour)."