POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Aug 24, 2012
Every team needs a player with a hint of jalapeno like Jane Croson, not to mention every crowd.
The Rainbow Wahine sophomore kicks it up a notch every time she is near the volleyball. She hits it harder and louder than pretty much any woman but Olympian Destinee Hooker.
And then there is that outrageously memorable serve. It starts with a twinkle in her eye and ends — after a ridiculously high toss followed by Croson's thundering approach — crashing into the opposition. Some teams simply ducked last season, when Croson launched 42 heat-seeking aces. Coach Dave Shoji actually subbed her out twice, feeling sorry for his frantic opponents.
"At first, it is terrifying," says UH transfer Sara Mendoza, who has been trying to pass Croson's craziness since they played in junior high. "It's topspin, so you have to just get down and stick it, man up. She just rips it. She's a stud."
Hawaii setter Mita Uiato has played with and against Croson since they were 15 in Southern California, but back then the club gyms could not contain Croson's toss. Stan Sheriff Center allows her to fire at will.
"We all try it at practice and it (the toss) either goes way out of our reach, into the court, or we waffle it," Uiato says. "We just can't figure out how she does it. It's amazing."
It is fascinating to watch, and so is Croson. She goes after Uiato's sets with the same gusto on the left side and has never seen a volleyball she didn't want to destroy. "Dink" is not part of her vocabulary.
What touch she does have was born on the beach. She grew up playing on the sand. She and Pepperdine's Summer Ross were the first American team to win the FIVB Youth World Beach Championships two summers ago.
"It helps my indoor game a lot," Croson says. "It helps me vary my shots, helps me communicate more. On the beach there are only two people and you are always talking."
Croson likes it indoors, but not the way she "loves" the beach game. Her idol is three-time beach gold medalist Misty May-Treanor: "I have the same mind-set as Misty," she says. "I always try to go after every ball. She's an amazing player."
Croson could get there. It will be fun to watch her try.