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Hartong is an essential ingredient

By Ann Miller

LAST UPDATED: 1:46 a.m. HST, Aug 24, 2012

If Emily Hartong were to introduce all the ingredients that make up Rainbow Wahine volleyball this season, she would add herself last, if she remembered to do it at all.

There is little ego in the second-team All-American. She will play anywhere, anytime. In every practice and on every serve she will go as hard as humanly possible.

Hartong is also relentlessly upbeat and has no desire to stand out. If she were a spice, she says softly, it would be "a spice consistently used, that is not going to jar you."

What she admired most about the U.S. Olympic team was the players' ability "to make each other better." It is her goal as Hawaii throws all its ingredients into this slow cooker of a 2012 season and attempts to replace three prominent starters.

Hartong essentially replaced all of them at some point last year, playing three vastly different positions and making it look ridiculously simple.

She started and ended the season in the middle, but took a few shots on the right side. The night All-American Kanani Danielson came down with the flu, Hartong put on the senior's all-world apron and the Wahine did not miss a beat — or a dig or a pass. Hartong went for a match-high 15 kills — the rest of the team had 19 —and hit .344, with eight digs and four blocks.

Hawaii coach Dave Shoji hopes it was a peek into the near future. Some 25 years ago, after winning his fourth national title, Shoji plucked national player of the year Teee Williams from the middle and moved her outside. She could get more swings there and help Hawaii much more, he reasoned.

Williams would compile huge numbers, lead UH to the national final the next year and head to the Olympics and a professional life overseas.

Shoji's reasoning is similar now. Hartong is thinking only of how hard she can work at the next practice.

She spent nearly two weeks with the United States A2 team this summer. She also trained with her former club team and on the Southern California beaches the rest of the time. Vacation for her is simply not keeping score.

"At home, I play whenever I can, which ends up being pretty often," Hartong says. "I just like being in the gym.

"I love playing volleyball and I want to get better. And as I get older I realize … now I'm an upperclassman and I feel like my job is always to get better and show the younger players that I want to keep improving."

What goes without saying is that she works so hard to make them look better, not herself.

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