The United States women's volleyball team was tanned, rested and ready after spending the winter months training in San Diego.
The Chinese were exhausted, scrambling for rest in the midst of a tour on which they hop-scotch from Beijing to Moscow to Havana to Baltimore.
The U.S. team was eager to unleash its devastating powegame. The Chinese were forced to counter the attack with junk and guile. For one night, at least, power overwhelmed junk.
The U.S. team defeated China, 3-1 (10-15, 15-13, 15-10, 15-9) last night in front of 1,523 spectators at the Towson Center. The victory helped the U.S. establish its superiority in the four-match exhibition tour.
"We want to win every match," said Lori Endicott, the U.S. team setter. "These are real, life matches, and we want to establish something for the U.S."
The Chinese and Americans are among the top four women's volleyball powers in the world. At last year's world championships in Beijing, the Chinese won the silver medal and the Americans won the bronze.
Even though these matches are exhibitions, they are importanstepping-stones for a U.S. team that faces a difficult qualifying path to the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.
"If you trained 12 months out of every year, you'd want to play games," U.S. team star Caren Kemner said. "We just can't train for one Olympic Games. You'd never be able to judge yourself against the rest of the world. We need to see how competitive we are. You need to be out there with the Chinese, instead of just watching them on videotape all the time. This was great."
China's subtle, spinning style worked splendidly against the U.S. in the first game. After falling behind, 10-6, the Chinese used a beguiling array of soft, angled shots to reel off nine straight points. Zhou Hong's off-speed serve closed out the game.
The U.S. team then took control with its powerful attacking style. Kemner (22 kills, three blocks) and Kim Oden (15 kills, seven blocks) dominated the middle. The talented pair received ample inside support from Elaina Oden (six kills, four blocks), Janet Cobbs (seven kills, two blocks) and Tara Cross-Battle (seven kills, one blocks), plus a steady all-court showing from Tammy Liley and Endicott.
Kemner's kill completed a second-game comeback, Cobbs' five winning serves launched the U.S. in the third game, and $H Endicott's distribution dominated the fourth game.
"No question, we used our power," U.S. team coach TerrLiskevych said. "We ran the middle well and took control of the game."
That's a winning combination that Liskevych would like to see repeated against the Chinese. The next match should be even better: tomorrow at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City.