Pac-12 all-stars fall short against the Chinese Junior National Team in five sets

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Pac-12 Conference

BEIJING – The Chinese Junior National Team (JNT) avenged last week’s loss to the Pac-12 All-Stars Tuesday with a five-set victory (25-20, 24-26, 33-31, 15-25, 15-11) at Beijing University Student’s Stadium.

UCLA’s Karsta Lowe, who led the team with 23 kills in its last outing, saw limited playing time because of flu-like symptoms. It was the third-straight match that head coach Jim Moore had to adjust the lineup because a starter was injured or ill.

Just like it in the first four matches, though, a different Pac-12 all-star rose to the occasion to lead the team. Samantha Bricio, a USC sophomore, was the go-to player in the team’s first match in the capital city with 22 kills, seven aces and nine digs.

The Pac-12 team, now 3-2 overall on the trip, dropped the first set for the third straight match. The teams traded the lead until JNT pulled away 18-14 with strong hitting from its middle blockers and eventually left the Conference squad to come from behind yet again.

In the second set, the all-stars took an 8-4 lead with the help of JNT hitting errors, but the score was tied at 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, 18, 20, 23 and 24 before a block by Washington’s Melanie Wade and Colorado’s Taylor Simpson and a kill by Simpson evened the match at 1-1.

“The Junior National Team played much, much better tonight,” Moore said. “They executed better and played well. It wasn’t the same team we saw last week.”

The marathon-third set started with the Pac-12 coming from behind after trailing 4-8 and later 8-14. The all-star team took the lead on a powerful kill by Bricio at 20-19 and the small crowd rallied behind the home team. Hitting and serving errors left the set knotted at 22, and the Conference team staved off its opponent’s game-winning point four times before JNT could put together back-to-back kills and go up 2-1.

Bricio helped the Pac-12 take an early and decisive lead in the fourth set with a kill followed by three-straight aces to run the score to 5-1. With leads of as many as 10 points, the all-stars forced another set, its second-straight five-set outing.

Back-to-back kills by Bricio gave the Pac-12 an 11-9 lead in the final frame, but the JNT squad was too much and won the last set with two aces and two blocks.

Overall, the Pac-12 outscored its opponent (113-112) and had 12 more kills on the night (72-60) in the loss. Moore and the team agreed in the post-game meeting that ‘silly’ errors were at the root of the problem.

At 4 p.m. local time Wednesday, the Pac-12 will have a chance to halt its losing streak against the Beijing professional team.