Arizona volleyball: Kingdon has horizons expanded on China trip
Zack Rosenblatt Arizona Daily Star
Tuesday, July 30, 2013 12:00 am

During her trip, UA's Madi Kingdon saw what she needed to work on. - A.E. ARAIZA / ARIZONA DAILY STAR 2012

Orange chicken is the signature dish of Panda Express.

But the chicken itself is not orange. It's the sauce.

Madi Kingdon loves "orange" chicken, though. In fact, it's the extent of her Chinese food palate.

That is, until the Arizona Wildcats volleyball star traveled to China on June 15 after being selected as one of 12 members for a Pac-12 all-star team that played in a six-game, 12-day competition in Beijing and Huaian City.

In the early going, she asked the All-Star team's translator if the country had orange chicken. He was confused.

"He said, 'Orange chicken?'" said a laughing Kingdon, Arizona's junior outside hitter. "I was like, 'No, the chicken's not orange.'"

And although the chicken wasn't orange, the team did feel pretty green going up against some of the top volleyball talent in China.

Even though the Pac-12 All-Stars were filled with some of the conference's best and brightest, led by USC head coach Mick Haley, they were no match for the professional Chinese clubs they played against.

"The games were really close," Kingdon said. "We should've won a few of them. We took a few games, but we lost every match.

"It was pretty intimidating. It's a lot quicker pace than what we play here (in America), and the girls there are like 6-2 to 6-5 and they just have a really fast game.

"And," she added. "They all have low bowl cuts."

But, every match was close, and the team also had the chance to visit a few of China's most famous landmarks, including Tiananmen Square and the Great Wall.

All in all, the trip was a good one for Kingdon, even without the orange chicken.

The Star sat down with Kingdon this week.

Tell me a little about your experience in China, and what it was like to be a part of that.

A: "Well, the first town I went to was called Jiangsu, and we played a team there that we played last year in the preseason (the Wildcats played Jiangsu's club team in Malibu and lost 3-0), so we went back to their hometown. But just being in Jiangsu, culturally, that was the biggest difference for me, because that was in the outskirts of China, the boonies, and so everyone there rode scooters, and nobody spoke English at all."

Did the team get the chance to shop and sightsee?

A: "Yeah it was crazy. You would go to the market and bargain with people, and everybody spoke English. We went to this place called the Silk Market where they would bargain with you, they would give you a ridiculous price, and you'd have to work your way down. Their exchange rate is like one- sixth of American money. Money is called yuans. So they would be like 800 Yuan, which is like 100 American dollars, for sunglasses. They wouldn't let you walk out of the store without giving you a good deal; they just want your business."

What was your favorite place you visited?

A: "The Great Wall, or Tiananmen Square. Great Wall was fun, but they made us hike up all the steps, it was a great experience. At the bottom of the Great Wall, there was a subway, which I thought was weird, but anyway it was the last day, and there were over one thousand steps. We just all got to the top and were drenched in sweat because the humidity was ridiculous."

What did the experience mean to you?

A: I think it was a good experience for me because I want to play internationally when I'm done (at the UA). And playing against that talent will help me a lot. They're so good, so I got to see maybe what I need to do to play against better teams, that'll help me with the season being able to play against the good teams in the Pac-12. I know what I have to do."