For Macey Gardner, one of the perks of being the first Arizona State volleyball player named all-conference in a decade was a trip to China.
Last season, the six-foot-tall outside hitter from Gilbert, Ariz., became just the third freshman to lead the Pacific-12 in kills, joining UCLA alumna Natalie Williams in 1990 and Kristee Porter in 1998. The 577 she had were the second-most in a season in school history.
As a result, Gardner joined the likes of Oregon’s Liz Brenner and Lauren Plum on an All-Star team that faced six Chinese pro teams in late June through Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
“It was wonderful,” Gardner said. “The experience was amazing, you ate food you never thought you would put in your mouth, and you played with girls you never thought you would play with. The city life was intense, there were people everywhere, and the culture was completely different than in the States. “We got off the plane and went to the bathroom, and there was no bathroom, it was a hole in the ground. It was some of the best two weeks of my life.
“The competition was very intense, we played the No. 1 pro team in China, they had a couple of Olympians on that team, and we played the No. 4 pro team, we played their army team, it was competition that you never thought you would play as a college athlete, and us 12 girls were able to have that experience, and I think that was really great. We didn’t win any matches, but we won a couple of sets.”
The Chinese national women’s volleyball team has twice won the gold medal in the Olympics, at Los Angeles in 1984 and in Athens in 2004. It placed fifth in London last year.
Gardner and the Sun Devils are sixth in the league’s preseason rankings and open the season Aug. 30 at Utah Valley.