McClinton Tells Tales of Tournament in China

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LAWRENCE, Kan. – Heading into her junior season on the Kansas volleyball team, Sara McClinton challenged herself on every level – and then some.
The All-Big 12 First Team outside hitter signed on for an experience that included her first trip to a foreign country, playing alongside teammates she had never met, maneuvering her way around massive language barriers, suddenly becoming a six-rotation player and bouts with sickness.
But when asked if she would ever go back to China for another two-week stint of international volleyball, McClinton was certain.
“I could do without the sickness from traveling and not being used to the food,” McClinton said. “But the experiences over there were just incredible. I’m so glad I got to see the things that I saw: Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall – I didn’t even think about that I was sick at all. The people there were amazing. I fell in love with the city of Huai’an. They just loved Americans. I fell in love with China, but it’s good to be back in the United States, too. I felt so much pride when we landed in L.A. I was singing the ‘Star-Spangled Banner.’ I missed being here and was ready to get back to the team.”  
From June 14-27, McClinton played for the Bring It Promotions/USA Development Program in the China-USA Challenge Invitational Tournament. Teamed with some of the best current and former collegiate volleyball players from around the U.S., McClinton and her American squad played six matches against elite Chinese competition, including several professional players.
McClinton’s team, comprised of 12 players, of which she was among the youngest, met and practiced together for the first time on the campus of Loyola-Marymount in L.A. Once they touched down in Shanghai on June 17, the team was then transported to a “little” city named Huai’an. With approximately a million inhabitants compared to Shanghai’s 23.4 million, Huai’an is not considered a tourist stop. According to McClinton, many of its citizens had not seen Americans before and the team immediately accrued “rock star” status, which stuck for the remainder of the trip.
“Not only was it my first trip to China, it was my first trip out of the country,” McClinton said. “It was a complete culture shock. I thought it was kind of like the U.S., but it was like a foreign planet. It is completely different. It is so rich in culture and history. It’s hard to explain because it’s nothing you’re used to.” 
After three matches and sightseeing excursions unlike any she had previously experienced, McClinton and the team traveled to Beijing for the second part of the trip. Aside from nearly everything else around her, the volleyball was also much different, ranging from international vs. American rules, pro players vs. collegiate players and a much different look on athletic training.
Adjusting quickly, McClinton used the international rule of the six-substitution limit as the opportunity to play all six rotations, something she and her KU coaches are challenging her to do during her junior season. The time spent in China helped her get a jump start on that goal and several others before the Jayhawks report to preseason camp.
“Since we can’t practice over the summer with our coaches, I loved the opportunity to play and train with head coaches there,” McClinton said of Jeff Nelson, New Mexico; Shawn Garus, South Carolina and Debbie Hendricks, Metro State. “Plus, I also had the opportunity to play defense so that gave me a head start on something that I want to accomplish in my junior season and I wanted to get a taste of that.
“The whole time I was in China I kept in mind that we were getting beat because we’re all not used to playing together. I remember thinking ‘I wish I had my Kansas team in China right now, we could give them a run for their money if I had my girls with me.'”
McClinton and the Jayhawks report to campus on Aug. 9 and begin preseason training camp on Aug. 10.  The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.