The U.S. Collegiate National Team concluded a five-match, 10-day trip to China with a pair of wins in Beijing and visits to Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall of China.

The U.S. team featured several 2017 AVCA All-Americans: Stephanie Samedy (first team, Univ. of Minnesota), Dana Rettke (first team, Univ. of Wisconsin), Madison Lilley (second team, Univ. of Kentucky) and Rachael Kramer (third team, Univ. of Florida); plus, Thayer Hall, 2017 Gatorade National Volleyball Player of the Year.

The U.S. finished 4-1 overall against professional teams from the Chinese Volleyball Leage. The team earned two victories in Beijing on Tuesday (May 28) and yesterday. The team defeated Beijing BAIC on Tuesday in four, 25-23, 18-25, 25-21, 25-23; and Hebei yesterday, also in four, 25-11, 25-20, 19-25, 25-19.

With setters Lilley and Julia Patterson (Univ. of Arizona) splitting duties of running the offense, opposite Becca Latham provided the scoring punch in the final two matches. Latham, who lists cliff diving as a hobby, led the U.S. in scoring with 18 points in match four with 16 kills on 29 swings and two blocks. In the final match, Latham had 16 points on 23 attempts, plus two blocks.

“I thought in the last match we did a great job of starting out strong,” said T’ara Caesar, who will enter her sophomore season at Georgia in the fall. “There was good play after good play, and that is all we look for.”

For the players, the experience of spending time in China and learning to meld as a team was significant.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime trip for me,” said Arizona’s Julia Patterson. “On the court, I loved getting to play with girls who are considered some of the best players in college. The Great Wall was by far my favorite thing off the court. Steph (Samedy) was a champ and tried everything before anyone to let us all know if we should try it also. She didn’t care if she had no idea what she was eating.”

The grind of international travel while an athlete was also something many of the women had never had to deal with before.

“I definitely learned that international travel consists of long days switching city to city to play one match,” Patterson added. “It’s an honor to represent USA, and there is no better feeling than putting on a jersey.

Fresh off her high school graduation, Thayer Hall said they were all pretty exhausted from the traveling, but being a part of Team USA is about being able to adjust to new scenarios.

“I’m so grateful for this opportunity,” she said. “I love coming together and meeting new people, and walking away with forever sisters … girls who I’ll get to see across the net, and some on the same side. Thank you USA for everything you’ve done for me, and for every opportunity I get to play volleyball.”

Top Stat Lines

… vs. Beijing BAIC
Becca Latham, 18 points, 16 kills, 2 blocks
Jenna Rosenthal (Marquette), 10 points, 6 kills, 3 aces, 1 block
T’ara Ceasar (Georgia), 10 points, 7 kills, 1 ace, 2 blocks
Carlyle Nusbaum (Lipscomb), 8 points, 6 kills, 1 ace, 1 block
Stephanie Samedy (Minnesota), 8 points, 8 kills

… vs. Hebei
Becca Latham, 16 points, 14 kills, 2 blocks
Carlyle Nusbaum, (Lipscomb), 14 points, 10 kills, 3 blocks, 1 ace
Taryn Kloth, (Creighton), 11 points, 7 kills, 4 aces
Dana Rettke (Wisconsin), 10 points, 7 kills, 3 blocks
Stephanie Samedy (Minnesota), 8 points, 2 kills, 6 blocks