Crabb’s talents shine at Long Beach State

It’s a bird, it’s a plane. No, actually it’s a Crabb. Taylor Crabb that is, the six-foot Hawaiian outside hitter is using his 40-inch vertical and fine-tuned skills to fly high and dominate on the volleyball court.

Maybe it was the fact that his mother, Paula Crabb, paddled in the Na Wahine O Ke Kai Molokai to Oahu’s 46-mile Canoe Race while she was pregnant with him that made him such a fighter. It’s also how he earned his middle name Kikaha o Ke Kai, meaning, “glide over the ocean” in Hawaiian, which has translated on the volleyball court with his well-rounded game.

Since his days as a kid playing with his father in Hawaii, he grew up proving the naysayers wrong about not being tall enough and gained knowledge from a family line well-integrated in volleyball.

Crabb grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii and went to volleyball powerhouse
Punahou high school where pro beach volleyball players Lee LeGrande, Stein Metzger,
Kevin Wong, Scott Wong, Mike Lambert and even President Barack Obama
attended.  

His senior year in 2010, they finished their season
32-0 as state champions and the Buff n’ Blue were considered the No. 1
team in the nation by ESPN RISE. Crabb was one of five players on the
squad who went on to play Division I volleyball as was Josh Taylor
(Pepperdine), Madison McKibbin (USC), Henry Cassidy (USC) and Ben Lam
(USC).

“Taylor was an incredibly tough and talented player. He
could play four different positions, including all three outside-hitting
spots and setter. He was also a leader, not verbally but through his
actions and ability to bring people together. He cares deeply for his
friends and they all know this about him,” said Punahou head coach Rick
Tune.

“I would say we haven’t had a player with his size,
athleticism and skill level in a long time. I would never make the mistake of underestimating
him. Too many people have done that and paid the price.”

With front rows averaging up to 6-foot-4 in men’s college volleyball today, Crabb has shown how effective he can be on offense.

“I feel I need to be a lot more disciplined as a smaller player, especially with the more physical aspects in volleyball, like blocking and hitting.  With hitting, some of the bigger stronger guys can get away with just hitting it as hard as they can, hard at the block but me not so much,” Crabb said.

“I have to be smart when I know I can’t beat the big block. So it’s actually helped me to become a better all-around player because I cant just get away with hitting it hard. Now I have more skills and shots to help me all around.”

Crabb has faced this challenge his whole life of not being tall enough. He heard from people day in and out he would have to be a libero in college if he didn’t grow.

“But its not about how tall you are, it’s about how cerebral you are. Someone once told me ‘the game is played between the ears,’” Crabb said.

Luckily, he acquired good athletic genes from his father Chris Crabb, who played volleyball professionally and is known as one of the best beach players in Hawaii.

But the volleyball success doesn’t end there for Crabb’s family line.

His cousins Dylan Fern and Brant Chillingworth both played for UC Santa Barbara, Alika Williams played on the AVP, Lindsey Berg, who set for the U.S. Women’s National team, won a sliver in London and uncle Tony Crabb, coached at UH and the men’s National Team, which won gold in the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984.

His mother Paula is a well-known paddler who has competed in 33 Na Wahine O Ke Kai 46-mile canoe races from Molokai to Oahu since 1981, winning the race with the Outrigger Canoe Club three times. She has traveled all over the world competing in one and six person canoe races. She still competes in the open class at the age of 60.

Crabb grew up playing with his dad at the heralded Outrigger Canoe Club while his mom was paddling. The Outrigger is known as one of the first places that beach volleyball was ever played.

“It ran in the family [volleyball], it was everywhere in my life. My dad would take me down on the court to warm up with him from when I was 3-8 years old when he would play in the University of Hawaii alumni game,” Crabb said.

“My dad was my club coach every year since I was 10. He was also my JV volleyball coach and my senior year assistant coach. My dad was never one of those parents who was pushing their child to do something they didn’t want to.  He let me play the game and let the game come to me. But every now and then he would give me one or two tips and that one tip I would take to heart because I knew how knowledgeable he was.”

Crabb has taken that knowledge and learned not to get intimidated from the blocks of players six inches to one foot taller him.

“Once I get my first kill in a game, I don’t care who is in front of me. At the same time it’s enabled me to be quicker and faster than the bigger guys, which helps a lot on defense and my arm speed for my swing.”

His advice for young volleyball players who are being dealt the “not-tall-enough card,” is to be smart.

“First thing I would tell them is that you don’t need to be the hardest hitter to be effective. You need to be the smartest. I’ve grown up and figured out that the game is more cerebral than physical abilities.  Because I’ve been playing since I could walk and watching it since I knew what it was, I have been able to learn the game very fast … And of course with great coaches, mentors and idols.”

He had offers from the top programs in the nation, USC, UCI, UCSB and UH but decided on Long Beach State to join his brother.

“I
felt it was a good fit for me because it felt most like home for me. My
brother was here and I was real close to some of the coaching staff
that was here. I knew Alan [Knipe] was coaching the national team and
was coming back for my last two years. I thought that would be great for
me to become a better player and take my game to another level,” Crabb
said.

Crabb has started all 35 sets this year on the Long Beach State men’s volleyball team and was recently named the MPSF Molten player of the week on Jan. 21. The 49ers are ranked No. 7 in the country with a 7-3 record in the NCAA Men’s Volleyball Poll and Crabb is leading his team with 177 kills and second in digs (83).

He recently registered his second double-double of the season with 23 kills and 12 digs to lead the 49ers to a win over Cal Baptist on Tuesday.

Crabb has beaten the odds and been able to perform at a very high level but is not satisfied with personal achievements.

“My goal more than anything is to win a National Championship. That’s been my goal from day one when I came here. That’s the only goal I have my eye on.”