from New York's Chinatown.
Most came to cheer the Chinese team. They chanted Chinese slogans and hung banners from the stands in a show of support for a sport that has gained tremendous popularity among the Chinese in the last few years, both in this country and in China.
"I've followed volleyball for five years, ever since the Chinese team won the world championship," said Yeung, who was born in Swaton, near Canton.
Yesterday was the second stop on a four-city tour, the teams' first such meeting in this country since 1986. On Friday night, they played in Baltimore. After Atlantic City, the women head to Syracuse, N.Y., and then Buffalo.
The Americans regard these matches as a tuneup for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain - if they qualify. In August, the team will compete with Cuba, Canada and other North American countries for a spot in the games. A first-place finish ensures it a bid.
"We need to replicate international play either in a tour setting like this or in a tourney," said Terry Liskevych, head coach of the U.S. team since 1985. The Chinese rank second in the world behind the Soviet Union. The United States ranks third.
For the Chinese, who already qualified for the Olympics by placing second at the World Championships last year, the games here give them a chance to
size up the competition.
"We need to be confronted to find out where each team stands," said Chinese coach Hu Jin.
So far, the U.S. team has dominated the series. The Americans won in Baltimore - and again yesterday, after falling behind two games to none.
Some might say that after taking the lead, the Chinese slacked off to avoid a blowout. In fact, Li Yueming, a 23-year-old blocker from Shanghai, said afterward that her team had played a bit too conservatively after taking the lead. "It came back to haunt us," she said.
No matter. It was a good show, and that is what the fans came to see.
The game these teams play bears little resemblance to the typical clumsy backyard games. Only the ball remains the same.
Call it power volleyball. Talk volleyball at this level of expertise, and you talk hitters, spikers, defense, blockers and setters. The net, usually 8 feet high for men, is set below 7 1/2 feet for women, which means more spikes, Liskevych said. A spike is volleyball's equivalent of basketball's slam dunk.
The U.S. team, for instance, features the Smash Sisters - blockers Kim and Elaina Oden. The name speaks for itself. Setters such as Lori Endicott run the offense.
"It's a really intense sport," said Endicott, 23.
The Chinese coach said the U.S. team was stronger and more aggressive than his team. The Americans run faster and jump higher.
The Chinese, however, play with more finesse, said Caren Kemner, the most valuable player on last year's U.S. team (and the MVP in yesterday's match). Kemner, 25, is one of three current team members who competed in the 1988 Olympics.
The 12-member Chinese team, with its nucleus of players who saw action in both the 1984 and 1988 Olympics, has matured more on the court. China took the gold medal in 1984, which - along with two World Cup titles and two World Championships - spurred a volleyball frenzy in China. Close to 50 million people play organized volleyball. Top players such as Li Yueming train five to eight years, for up to five hours a day.
Liskevych hopes matches such as these will create a similar frenzy in the United States.