An art student as well as a volleyball player at Cal State Fullerton, Katie Crawford sees this season as a blank canvas.
The Titans' season started two weeks ago, but Crawford's debut was delayed because of an injury. She made her first appearance Friday, playing one game in a match against Portland.
Crawford was helping at a clinic for kids in her hometown of El Segundo late in the summer when she made an awkward move and dislocated her right knee.
Her return is good news for the Titans (3-3) and Coach Mary Ellen Murchison.
Crawford, a sophomore, is one of five returning players who saw considerable time last season when the Titans were 12-18 and 4-12 in the Big West.
A year ago, the Titans were 9-11 when Crawford was in the lineup at middle blocker, but only 3-7 when she was on the sidelines. She was out two different times last season, first with an eye infection and then with a season-ending injury to her left knee. But her 236 kills in 20 matches and 72 games ranked third on the team. Her 13 blocks and 48 block assists were team-leading totals.
"The good thing is that the team did well without me [this season], but I'm motivated to try to give it a boost when I get back in there," Crawford said.
"I think we're going to have a good season. We're a lot more talented than we were last season, and we're getting better with every game. We're a young team, but that's good."
Murchison expects Crawford to be a key player again this season. "When she's in there, it gives us more different lineups we can use," Murchison said. "She's such a good blocker, and the most important thing about Katie is her consistency. That helps us a lot."
One of the reasons Crawford chose Fullerton over San Diego State, Arizona State and Santa Clara was the school's art department.
"Volleyball and art are my two passions," she said. "My main focus now is volleyball because we're in season, but I really love art. I get into another world when I'm painting or drawing, just the way I do when I play volleyball. Nothing on the outside gets in. Everything seems to flow that way. It's like being in a zone."
Crawford said she became interested in drawing in grade school, then painting when she was in high school.
"Everything I've learned has been pretty much on my own," she said. "I was way ahead of everyone else in my high school art class.
"I just started doing oils this year and it's become my favorite," she said. "I really like to do scenery, mountains, oceans and trees."
She believes her best work might be a plaster carving of a candle and flame with caricature faces.
Crawford said she is considering an eventual career as an illustrator of children's books. "I enjoy working with children, and that would be another way to reach out to them," she said.
Women's gymnastics Coach Lynn Rogers is turning over more of the day-to-day coaching responsibilities this year to his associate coach, Julie Knight, while Rogers does more general fund-raising for the athletic department.
"She's going to be more of a co-head coach, although I'll still coach a lot," said Rogers, who started the program in 1976.
Rogers said Athletic Director John Easterbrook asked him to take on the additional duties. "It's similar to what Augie Garrido did for the athletic department as a fund-raiser when he was head baseball coach," Rogers said. "John also wants us to do a better job of reaching out to our alumni, and I'll also be working with that project.
"They've told me that if I'm not comfortable with it, we'll go back to the way it was, but I'm committed to it for a year, and we'll see how it fits."
Rocky Medina, a former Titan catcher who graduated in May, will be a graduate assistant coach this season for softball Coach Judi Garman. Medina joins two other former Titan players, Rose Garces and Michelle Gromacki, who are full-time coaches on the staff. . . . Titan soccer Coach Al Mistri was Mark McGwire's high school math teacher at Damien High in LaVerne in 1981. .. . . Shortstop Ryan Owens, a two-year regular with the Titan baseball team, had a good summer playing for Team USA. Owens batted .356 with two home runs and 18 runs batted in.