Chrissie Zartman's volleyball resume comes with all the qualifications--and more--that one would expect from a high school senior bound for three-time NCAA champion UCLA.
Zartman's club teams have won three age-group national titles. She has also helped Torrance Bishop Montgomery win one state and two Southern Section championships. She is a six-time national beach volleyball champion and, at ages 12 and 13, was the youngest player in history to earn AA and AAA adult ratings on the sand.
No small feats for any player--especially one who stands only 5 feet 4 inches tall.
In a sport where the growth in opportunities for girls during the last 15 years seems to have mirrored the growth in the height of the girls themselves, Zartman hardly fits the 6-foot-plus prototype.
Few, if any, players her size combine court sense and ball control with the leaping ability and devastatingly quick and powerful arm swing that regularly stuns spectators and opponents.
"Chrissie just uses blockers that are 6-2," said Haley Jorgensborg of Marymount High, who plays on Zartman's club team. "She's this little girl and she just ruins them.
"I don't know where her muscles come from, but she bangs the ball so hard it's incredible."
Zartman, a 4.0 student, accepts compliments and accolades with graciousness befitting a player who has twice won state CIF sportsmanship awards.
"Sometimes after games, people will come up to me and say, 'It's so neat that you're so short and you still can do that,' " Zartman said. "I feel kind of bad for taller players. They put a ball away and people think, 'Well, they should.' But they are working just as hard as I am."'
Zartman's skill level is a byproduct of the hours she puts into refining it. Along with playing on the beach and for her club team, she works with a strength coach after her high school season to improve her jumping.
"She's the first one in the gym to help put up the nets and the last one out," Bishop Montgomery Coach Kim Willeman said. "The other day, she was struggling with her jump serve so she stayed after practice for 30 minutes and worked on it.
"Our freshman team was there for their workout. They saw what she was doing and you could see them thinking, 'OK, that's what it takes.' Those extra little pushes are what has made her what she is."
Zartman can also credit genetics, coming as she does from what could be the Southland's first family of volleyball.
Her mother, Charleen "Sharkie" Zartman, played for UCLA's first national championship team in 1972, was a successful open and professional beach volleyball player into her 40s and coached El Camino College to nine conference and two state titles from 1976-85. A professor at El Camino, she also coaches Chrissie's club teams.
Pat Zartman, Chrissie's father, is a teacher at Torrance High and the founder of the powerful South Bay Spoilers club. He was an assistant and then head coach for the U.S. national women's team in 1974, coached the Los Angeles Starlites pro indoor team in 1987 and has trained many top professional beach volleyball players, including Jackie Silva.
Chrissie's sister, Teri Zartman, was a Southern Section player of the year at Bishop Montgomery and now plays for UC Irvine.
The Zartmans live about 30 seconds from the sand in Hermosa Beach, "so if I ever needed to work on anything, I had a court to play on," Chrissie said.
Pat Zartman remembers the night his youngest daughter formally caught the volleyball bug.
Because of a schedule conflict, he was forced to take 4-year-old Chrissie to a Starlite practice. As the team circled the gym for a few warm-up laps, one player extended her hand to Chrissie, who took it and trotted alongside.
"From that point on, she became obsessed with the game," Pat said.
Proximity to some of the top players in beach volleyball fueled Chrissie's interest. Silva and others were regulars at the Zartman home before and after training workouts with Pat. Chrissie and Silva often rallied over the family sofa with a balloon.
"She kind of grew up with these role models around the house all the time," Sharkie said. "She got a taste, real young, of what it was like to play at a level that high. That's probably one of the reasons she has been so disciplined. She saw what it took."
Chrissie was 11 when she and partner Tracy Lindquist of Huntington Beach won their first Junior Olympic title in a division for 14-year-olds. They won four more Junior Olympic titles through the years and last summer won three AAA tournaments. Zartman also teamed with Manhattan Beach Mira Costa senior Jamie Grass to win this year's 17-and-under Junior Olympic title.
"We got a lot of comments about our age when we first started playing," said Lindquist, now a sophomore setter at USC. "People would say, 'Shouldn't you be home doing your homework?' We'd just go out and play as hard as we could. The bigger the challenge the better we seemed to play."