Los Alamitos alum Emily Hartong not only had to adjust to a new volleyball position, she also had to grow accustomed to life in Hawaii.
By KIRSTIN OLSEN FS West
"I chose Hawaii basically based on its reputation," Hartong said. "I had known of the high caliber program it proceeded to put out every year, coached by the one and only Dave Shoji, along with the attendance rate and unbelievable support that the fans give us.
"Hawaii is unlike any other program - we are playing for the state, not just for the university - and the fans show us that each and every game we step out there in the Stan Sheriff Center. There aren't any professional teams in the state so we are the main focus. We are on the local news every night, letting the people know how the teams and individuals at the university are doing. It's crazy."
Hartong was recruited as a middle blocker and later moved to outside hitter, a move her high school head coach saw coming.
"Emily is a great athlete, and you could tell that she would be able to make the transition to the outside or right side once she got to college," Los Alamitos head coach Dave Huber said. "She was obviously talented in high school, but was always in great shape and always worked hard, so you knew she would have a future in the sport. Her being an All-American goes right along with those qualities.
"For us she was captain her senior year, brought a lot of energy to the court and was someone that all the girls enjoyed being around. Definitely one of my favorite kids to coach."
She made an instant impact her freshman year with the Rainbow Wahine, starting all 32 games in the middle and being named the Western Athletic Conference's Freshman of the Year and earning second team all-WAC honors.
"There would be the local news casters coming in with cameras to interview us and film us practicing," she said. "I had never really been around this type of media before and it was so much fun to soak it in. My first game, playing in front of a crowd averaging about 6,000 fans, was definitely very nerve-racking. I think I missed every serve that match, but it was the best feeling to be out there playing in front of all the people who look up to the UH athletic teams and to know that they are there to cheer you on."
Her sophomore year she appeared in all 33 matches and played in all three hitting positions. She was named second-team AVCA All-American, hitting a solid .369 cumulatively from every spot in the front row.
"It was undoubtedly a tough transfer for me as far as passing goes and my timing on the outside," Hartong said. "Dave had me practicing passing since the second semester of my freshman year, so it was easy to get acclimated on the outside by the time season came around this year.
"I also played beach volleyball a lot this past year and I can definitely say that has helped me with my timing in regards to waiting and jumping."
The training paid off as Hartong has excelled as an outside hitter and was the first athlete named American Volleyball Coaches Association Player of the Week from Hawaii since Jamie Houston in 2006. The junior also earned Big West Player of the week honors as Hawaii moved form the WAC to the Big West Conference in 2012. Her contributions helped the Wahine win the Big West regular season championship with a 14-0 record in league play and 22-2 overall.
"I hope Hawaii remembers me as a person of good character, someone who demonstrates hard work ethic and loyalty to the program and someone who has represented the state well and will make them proud."