Cameron Green raises his arm and leaps into the air, bringing his hand down on the volleyball. As an opponent's hands move a tad too late, the ball makes a dull thud on his face, sending the Mira Costa High crowd into a frenzy and Green into a fist-shaking rage.
Green, a 6-foot-4 outside hitter, converted 19 of 26 kills in Mira Costa's three-game sweep of Corona del Mar in the second round of the Southern Section 4-A Division playoffs Tuesday night, many of them mercilessly off opponents' chests and faces.
Afterward, even after changing back to his Clark Kent mentality, Green would not deny that he takes a perverse pleasure in knocking an opponent silly.
"That's the greatest feeling," said Green, a senior who will lead the Mustangs against San Marcos of Santa Barbara at 7:30 tonight at Mira Costa in a quarterfinal-round match. "I don't care how well I know an opponent, during the game they're my enemy. . . . That's the way I always play. When it counts, there's nothing I won't do to win. The more intense I am, the better I play."
If Green has led the Mustangs (15-4) to 14 consecutive victories and the No. 2 seeding in the playoffs, that's nothing compared to the way he practically carried them early in the season. Mira Costa struggled against teams it has come back to beat handily during its winning streak.
Green played almost constantly last summer. When he wasn't playing for the U.S. Junior National team, he was playing club ball. When he wasn't playing club ball, he was playing on the beach.
"I got a lot out of playing on the beach especially," Green said. "Playing on the beach improves every aspect of your game because you have to do everything."
Unfortunately for Mira Costa, Green was the only Mustang who took it upon himself to play during the summer. So when it was time to start season, few--if any--were in the shape that Green was.
"I don't want to put blame on anybody," Green said. "But we might've had an easier time at the start of the season if everybody had played (during the summer)."
Mira Costa Coach Mike Cook is not so diplomatic.
"I was pretty disillusioned that no one else played in the summer," Cook said. "That's why we took four losses early in the season. They're sick and tired of me lecturing them about it, but if we don't win the CIF championship, I'm going to tell them, 'Look back to the summer.' "
A pattern soon developed, one that was still visible in Tuesday night's victory: When the Mustangs need a crucial point or side out, they go to Green.
"He hits from the back row, and we're not afraid to set him up from out there," Cook said. "He's the stud of the team. . . . He wants that ball so badly."
Said Green: "When the game is on the line, I want the ball every time."
In the sweep of Corona del Mar, Green's 19 kills--"an incredible number against a team like that," Cook said--was by far tops on the team. The next highest total was eight.
Now that all of the Mustangs are in shape, they seem virtually unbeatable. Against Corona del Mar, they came out swinging and won the first game, 15-3, which took a little more than 15 minutes to play. They fell behind in both of the last two games but came back to win, 15-7 and 15-11.
"We're peaking at the right time," Green said. "That's the most together we've played all year. We didn't let up once. That's the first time all year for that."
Green, who was named most valuable player of the 16-team Redondo-Mira Costa tournament on May 2 after leading the Mustangs to the championship, is already looking ahead to playing next year at Cal State Northridge, which he chose over offers from Brigham Young, USC and UC Santa Barbara.
"Northridge was my first recruiting trip and I loved it," Green said. "I felt like I belong there. I went on other recruiting trips, but, realistically, it was over after I visited Northridge."
Northridge, said Cook, loses only one starter next year, and Cook feels Green might move into that starting spot immediately.
"He's a gamer," Cook said. "Physically, he's very mature. He'll have to make mental adjustments for the college game, but he should fit in at Northridge right away. Plus, there won't be any pressure on him to be the big man. I think he's going to go in there and start right away."
There's something else about Northridge that puts a gleam in Green's eye, something which--when in the presence of a volleyball--should make everyone run for cover.
"They play the way I like to play," Green said.
That's a scary thought.