From China to Mobile
By Joe Ackels '11
Originally from Shanghai, China, Yiting Cao (pronounced “Ye-ting Dow”) recently joined the Spring Hill women’s volleyball team. A quiet and polite young woman, Cao moved from Shanghai to the United States in July 2008. She was searching for a different lifestyle, new culture and new people. And, she wanted to play volleyball.
“America was a great place to go to play volleyball and receive a scholarship,” Cao says. A few of her former teammates had moved to the U.S. from Shanghai in order to play volleyball and attend college. They offered a firsthand look into what life was like in America, and this helped in Cao’s ultimate decision. Cao left her mother, Junrong Cao, and her father, Xiuzhen Huang, at home in Shanghai but talks to them regularly on her cell phone and with her Web camera. Cao learned some English while living in Shanghai and furthered her knowledge by attending junior college in the States.
Cao transferred to Spring Hill for her junior and senior years from Illinois Central College in East Peoria, Ill. A 6-foot right side hitter, she is a 2009 National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) and American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) 1st team All American.
Cao started playing volleyball when she was about 9 years old. “As far as women’s sports in Shanghai go, volleyball is probably the most popular,” she says. Cao chose Spring Hill over three other National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) colleges she had visited because of the small class sizes and because of Spring Hill’s volleyball coach, Peggy Martin. “Coach Martin offered me a lot of help in making my decision because she made me feel very comfortable, and I knew she would be there if I needed her,” Cao says.
“We are very blessed to have Yiting join our program. She adds much needed experience to a very young team,” Martin says. “Once Yiting visited the campus this summer, Spring Hill sold itself.”
Cao’s favorite aspect of Spring Hill’s campus is the size. She wanted her teammates, friends and the staff to be close to her. “The small school helps me, and the volleyball girls are my close friends now because we spend a lot of time together,” she says.
Shuhong Zhou is Cao’s favorite sports figure. Zhou was part of the Chinese Olympic women’s volleyball team that won the gold medal in 2003 in Athens and the gold medal in the 2003 Volleyball World Cup. Cao met Zhou in person one day at a routine practice. “She came and practiced with us and she was really nice, and the whole team loved her,” Cao says.
“My grandfather told me when I was young that he hoped that one day I would be able to wear China’s flag on my jersey,” she says. Her grandfather’s dreams came true when in 2007 Cao played on the World Junior National Championship team for China.
A graphic design major, Cao hopes to find a job in the U.S. in the design field after she graduates. “If I can’t find a job that I like in graphic design, I might return home to be with my family and friends in Shanghai,” she says.
Cao has found her place at Spring Hill College, where she can work to achieve her own dreams with people close by who are willing to help.
Joe Ackels '11 is an intern in the Office of Communications and Institutional Marketing.