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Sports / Recreation

CSU standout Cranston a hit with Team Canada

August 8, 2011
By Tony Phifer

CSU junior Dana Cranston had an opportunity to chase her dream this summer, earning a spot on Team Canada's volleyball team.

Dana Cranston, who will be a junior on the CSU volleyball team, got a chance to hone her skills this summer while playing for Team Canada.For the past two seasons, Dana Cranston has been a mainstay for the CSU volleyball team. At 6-foot-2, she is tall enough to dominate the front line and nimble enough to play the back as well.

During those two seasons, Cranston has fallen in love with CSU. In addition to establishing herself as one of the volleyball program’s best players, she has excelled in the classroom, earning a 3.93 grade-point average while majoring in business administration.

It wasn’t until this summer, however, that Cranston truly discovered her passion. A native of Fort St. John, B.C., Cranston spent two months training with the Canadian national “A” team, joining former CSU player Tonya Mokelki.

“It was an awesome experience for me,” Cranston said. “Playing for Team Canada was a dream I’ve had since I was little. I thought it was a really cool experience in the beginning, and then it just kept getting better and better.”

Rams coach supportive

CSU coach Tom Hilbert, who has recruited four Canadians to play for the Rams, enthusiastically supported Cranston’s decision to spend most of her summer training with the national team.

“The training she got is much more extensive that what our other players have done,” he said. “She was playing with and against some really high-level players, and I’m looking forward to seeing her improvement on the court for us this season.”

Proving she belongs

Despite starting 21 games for CSU as a sophomore, Cranston was surprised when she got the invitation to train with Canada’s top team. Shortly after camp opened, however, coach Arnd Ludwig made it clear that much was expected.

“Lupo (Ludwig’s nickname) made it clear that I deserved to be there,” she said. “That’s when you understand that you are there for a reason. It was a new reality for me, knowing that I’m not just there to learn but to push our older players to get better.”

National pride

The highlight of the summer came in an exhibition match against Argentina in Winnipeg. That’s when Cranston got her first significant playing time – and her first chance to don Team Canada’s jersey.

“When you line up before the match, and you’re singing the national anthem and wearing that flag on your chest – it was so amazing! You feel so much pride … it’s really hard to describe,” she said. “I was really nervous but I played better in that match than I thought I would. Knowing that I can have an impact at that level was pretty gratifying.”

Team Canada hasn’t qualified for the Olympics since 1996 but is making a strong push toward qualifying in 2012 – 2016 at the latest. Cranston, 19 and one of the youngest players on the team, admitted she probably will not be part of the team that tries to qualify in 2012, but her goal is play a significant role leading up to 2016.

Looking forward to Rams' season

In the meantime, she is excited to get back to Fort Collins and start preparations for the 2011 season. Last fall, Cranston was second at CSU in assists (46), aces (25) and digs (199). Hilbert said that once she improves her arm swing, she can start becoming more of a force at the net.

“Dana still needs to hit the ball harder on a more consistent basis,” he said. “I know Team Canada’s coaches worked with her on that, so I certainly hope her experience this summer boosts her confidence. We want her to be a start for us all the way around, and I’m hoping this experience boosts her into that role.”

The Rams report for fall camp Tuesday. They open the season Aug. 26 at the Arkansas Invitational. Even though Mountain West player of the year Danielle Minch and starters Jacque Davisson and Evan Sanders have moved on, the Rams will have a talented team.

“I’m really, really excited about this team,” Cranston said. “We have a lot of talent. It we bring it together at the right time, I think we’ll have an excellent season.”