ALUMNI: Emily Hartong to play snow volleyball exhibition in Moscow

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Former Los Al volleyball standout Emily Hartong (LAHS ’10)  is part of an American contingent headed for Russia to take part in a snow volleyball exhibition on December 20.

That’s right snow volleyball, which advocates are lobbying to make an official sport at the Winter Olympic games.   A host of top-level beach volleyball Olympians played an exhibition at the Pyeongchang Games in 2018, organized in three-person teams. It was an interesting affair, with the snow — raked and chopped up into a powder at the beginning of the match — being packed into ice by the end.

When Karissa Cook received an email from USA Volleyball in early December asking if any pro beach players were interested in participating in the Moscow event, she immediately said yes and recruited her beach tour partner Katie Spieler, who in turn recruited Allie Wheeler and Emily Hartong.  

They had a team. As for how to train? Or what the rules are? Or what to wear? They’ve slowly been figuring all this out. Players wear thermal clothing and soccer cleats for traction. The court layout is similar to beach, but because it’s harder to move quickly in the snow and the ball is heavier when it gets wet, the sport puts a premium on ball control and serving.
The first rules had two-person teams, like beach volleyball, but organizers have since settled on three-on-three, with a fourth teammate as a substitute. Snow volleyball games are played to 15 points, six less than beach rules.

Snow volleyball has kicked around Europe for a decade, and that continent’s volleyball federation officially recognized the sport in 2015, and a seven-stop European tour is planned for 2018-19, starting with this week’s event in Moscow.

The International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) is hoping to add three more events of its own, including one in Argentina that will be the first outside of Europe. The U.S. hopes to host one in the United States next winter.
From there, the FIVB is planning for a snow volleyball competition at the Youth Olympics and World University Games in 2020 and the winter Military World Games in 2021, along with a possible world championship.

 For Hartong, a former All-American at the University of Hawaii,  this is just another different way of staying busy during the off-season.  After graduating in 2014, she played professionally in Switzerland, then on to South Korea for two years where her team won the Korean Volleyball Pro League Championship, and she was awarded the league’s Best Outside Hitter (see video at bottom) as well as the unofficial title of “best foreign player of the year.”  While in Switzerland, and finding herself with more free time than as a student, she “began to get in touch with my roots, my artistic, creative roots. I began painting again (lots of beach scenes) and making bracelets.”  But the latter took off in Korea.  “my last year in Korea something inside me clicked and I realized my true creative passion was in making jewelry. I began searching my soul in Seoul for the best beads and stones Korea had to offer, and before I knew it my desk was covered in materials. Every available chance I had, I was off on my two-hour commute to where the most reputable merchants were located. ”  

When she’s not playing beach — or snow — volleyball, Emily can also be found selling her jewelry on Etsy.

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