By Gideon Rubin
Hannah Grobisen isn’t among San Diego County’s tallest high school volleyball players and she can’t jump out of the gym.
But whatever the incoming junior Canyon Crest Academy middle blocker lacks in size, athleticism and raw ability, she more than makes up for with smarts, savvy, and a propensity for clutch play.
Grobisen plays for the prestigious San Diego Waves club team and has started her first two years at CCA.
“She has the ability to play big in big moments,” Ravens coach Ariel Haas said, summing up the intangibles that, in his estimation, make Grobisen one of the county’s top club players in her age group.
“I don’t know what it is about someone’s character, but when the pressure’s on maybe she focuses more. She always plays really well during those stressful periods.”
Grobisen’s coaches took note of those qualities at the end of her freshman year, when she started a San Diego Section Division III semifinal playoff against a heavily favored La Costa Canyon team.
That the Ravens were swept in three games by an LCC team that went on to play in the state finals was no a big surprise.
But Grobisen’s performance was.
Especially considering she found herself playing opposite standout Natalie Bausback, a University of Virginia-bound senior.
“That experience was really challenging,” Grobisen said. “That was a really great experience for me to be able to be a starter in an LCC playoff game my freshman year. I was very intimidated because she’s such a great player and she’s going to a Division I school.”
Grobisen acknowledged that the decibel levels in a packed gym did little to calm her nerves.
But she showed no signs of nervousness outwardly.
And Grobisen more than held her own, leading the Ravens with a .583 hitting percentage (seven kills in 12 attempts). She was the Ravens second leading kill leader in that game.
“I just felt like I was David against Goliath,” she said. “It was great to be able to compete in that game.”
It’s a role that Grobisen relishes.
“I definitely love playing when you’re the underdog and people don’t expect to do as well as you can. It’s really nice to prove people wrong.”
Grobisen’s attitude makes her a nice fit for a Ravens program that’s been proving people wrong practically since the program’s inception.
The Ravens made the Division III finals last season for the second time in three years – and for the first time since graduating phenom Samantha Cash, who went on to play at Division I Pepperdine after leading CCA to its first finals appearance in 2010.
CCA, which last season advanced to the Southern California Regional semifinals, was among eight teams selected to compete in the elite Open Division next year.
The selection was based on the performance records of high school programs in all enrollment divisions going back five years.
Grobisen said her teammates talked about what it meant to classified by the section commissioners as an elite program at a team meeting last fall.
It is an especially sweet for a school known more for academics than sports, and for a program that’s existed just nine years and has fielded a varsity for seven years.
“We thought it was huge honor to be moved up there,” she said.
Grobisen is part of the reason they got moved up there, Haas said, noting that elite club players such as her weren’t coming to CCA in the numbers that they are now.
“She’s among a good crop of young players who have continued us on our path on an elite level,” Haas said.
Grobisen, who Haas believes is a potential Division I or Division II college prospect, is among at least four returnees who project to play at four-year schools. The others are setter Carly Rasmussen and opposite Caroline Lappe (incoming juniors) and incoming sophomore outside hitter Jolie Rasmussen.
The Ravens graduated seven seniors, including four who went on to play at four-year colleges.
“In years past it would be one kid at that type of level, now we’re starting to see more of those kids,” Haas said. “With success every year brings more attention to the program and more kids wanting to come and be a part of what we’ve put together.”
Grobisen’s upcoming season will be a chance to showcase her skills to scouts, Haas said.
Although some of her best attributes aren’t easily measured by tape measures and stop watches, Grobisen is a solid server and excellent attacker, Haas said.
Scouts also pay close attention to how top-level players perform under pressure – a quality that she’s shown herself to excel in.
“I think that’s a great sign of character,” Haas said, noting the LCC playoff game her freshman year spoke volumes about what makes Grobisen the player she is.
“That was kind of the moment that I think back on,” he said. “She played so well against someone who was supposed to be better than her and it didn’t matter to her, as a freshman, and as a 14-year-old.”
Grobisen admits she wasn’t always able to settle herself down in pressure situations so easily. She learned how to calm herself down playing club ball in middle school, entering games mostly as a reserve with game’s on the line.
“I wasn’t always the best at it,” she admits, “but I do love to compete in tough situations because it always makes it fun for me.
“To be down and then to be able to come back, that’s the best feeling in the world.”