Freshman volleyball players often have a difficult transition to college life.

They’re away from their homes for the first time, there are those grueling two-a-days in preseason, and then the travel in season can be taxing.

So for Long Beach State’s Yizhi Xue, a middle blocker from Nanjing, China, you would imagine the adjustment is even more difficult.

Long Beach State’s Yizhi Xue leads the 49ers in blocking/Ed Chan,
Long Beach State’s Yizhi Xue leads the 49ers in blocking/Ed Chan,

“When I first arrived, I was very quiet, and barely spoke to my coaches, teammates, anyone, Xue admitted. “They were really nice. They were all really encouraging and supportive, they were all cheering for me to get better.”

She was so nervous that it caused her some intestinal discomfort.

“I panicked the first game,” she said. “I got a stomachache I was so nervous. Now I can relax and enjoy the game.”

It certainly appears that way. The 6-foot-4 international business major is taking care of business on the court, averaging 1.70 kills per set and hitting .316. She leads the 49ers in blocks with 75, four solo, and even has 15 digs.

Known to her friends as Eri, she has been the Big West Conference defensive player of the week (September 12) and the freshman of the week (October 3).

“It’s an incredible cultural difference coming from China,” Long Beach coach Brian Gimmillaro said. “Every day she works hard, laughs, she has a good time. Now we’re at the point where she gives us a hard time, and we give her a hard time back. She feels comfortable enough that she will roll her eyes at us or give us that funny look. She is fun to be around, and she’s very serious when she needs to be serious, and fun when you need to be fun.”

LBSU freshman middle Yizhi Xue/Ed Chan,
LBSU freshman middle Yizhi Xue/Ed Chan,

We asked her about the differences between Chinese and American training methods.

“The sports environment in China is very different,” Xue said.  “Here you are very fierce about your sports. It’s very different, here you have cheerleaders, DJs, and music.

“The environment is quite different, it’s much more positive. In China, the coaches put more stress and pressure for you to get better, and you can be punished when you don’t perform. It’s different here, they encourage a lot, and they want to understand why you are doing something wrong and how to improve you.”

Long Beach State, 12-7 overall and atop the Big West at 6-0, plays host to Cal State Northridge on Saturday.

It will be another step in the American education of Xue who admittedly has difficulty understanding many of the details of life in this country, like having to pay taxes and leaving tips, neither of which exist in China. 

And not only that, she doesn’t like the rice she’s served in the dorm.

“She tells me how bad it is all the time.,” Gimmillaro said. “”Some day I’ll bring her a whole big tub of rice just to make her feel better.”

If the rice is her biggest problem adjusting to American life, Xue should do very well for herself. 

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