Hartong finds home, new position in Hawaii
NOV 13, 2012 6:39p ET
The Southern California native quickly realized she was a long way from home and the support of her family and friends. But the warm welcome she received from the community and her teammates made the transition easier.
"Every girl on the team welcomed me with open arms, so it wasn't very difficult to make friends," Hartong said. "Moving to Hawaii was definitely a culture shock. It is much different from the mainland. I am a minority here. The culture and people here are beautiful, so family-oriented and caring. Over the couple years I've been here, I have met so many amazing people and families who have welcomed me tremendously.
"It's like no place else in the country."
On Hawaii's Manoa campus, in Honolulu, volleyball is as mainstream as football or basketball. Hawaii has the nation's only revenue-producing volleyball program. The Rainbow Wahine have won four national titles, in 1979, '82, '83 and '87. Coach Dave Shoji is entering his 38th year with the program and recorded his 1000th win in 2009.
Hawaii's Stan Sheriff Center is regularly a full house. The school has led the nation in attendance since they moved to the center in 1994.
"It's unbelievable," Hartong said. "I don't think any other school can relate to the type of program and support that our fans produce. The atmosphere in the arena is exhilarating, stepping out onto the court and the crowd roaring for our team. It's really an awesome feeling. You go to the grocery store and people will recognize you and start talking about the team and their opinions about how the season is going, and I don't think you can receive such attention like that from many other schools around the nation."
The Los Alamitos alum was recruited by several DI programs, but the Wahine volleyball program made her decision easy.
"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."