She’s hard to miss.

 Standing at 5 feet and 11 inches tall, and making her presence felt all over the court, freshman outside hitter Cristina Maietta is wasting no time turning heads and making a name for herself at UCR.

Volleyball has been Maietta’s passion since eighth grade, where she chose to spurn the opportunity to play soccer to pursue a volleyball career in high school. Looking back, Maietta harbors no regrets in her decision. “I love volleyball, and I wouldn’t rather be playing anything else.” After leading her Los Alamitos Griffins to a semifinals appearance in 2010, a championship in 2011 and with a 96-14 career record, how could she say otherwise?

The transition from high school to the “faster, more competitive” college game has come as smooth as silk for the Los Alamitos product. Playing in all 20 games for UCR and starting 19 of them, leading the team with 177 kills and 198 points, it’s safe to say that Cristina Maietta plays the game through the lens of a slow motion camera.

One of Maietta’s best games in a Highlander jersey came in the team’s lone win of the season against the Winthrop Eagles on Sept. 14. In the match, Maietta registered 19 kills on 56 total attacks, along with 21 total points in a 3-1 UCR victory.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that team has gone through its fair share of struggles this season. Sitting on a record of 1-19 and 0-8 in conference play, it has been eight years since the UCR women’s volleyball program has enjoyed a winning season. However, Maietta believes that the key to improvement lies within the locker room. “(We need to work on) communication. When someone on the team makes a mistake and gets frustrated, other teammates do too. It’s a domino effect.”

Through all the success she has enjoyed in her young career, Maietta has never lost sight of her strong family ties, especially with her number-one fan and role model. “I’ve always looked up to my dad. Him and I connect really well, especially since we’re the two athletes in the family. He’s never missed a game, always reminds me to work hard and be a leader. Without him I would have never even gotten the scholarship.”

With three more eligible years at UCR, Maietta looks to be a key component in a team that is in struggling to find success within the conference. After former head coach Ron Larsen announced his resignation in December 2012, Michelle Patton now leads the UCR volleyball team. Maietta buys into her teammates and the system, stating that, “the players and coaches have supported me and made me feel really welcome as a new player on the team.”

With a young player that looks to have every bit of what it takes to be etched in UCR’s history books, Cristina Maietta is on a mission to “play volleyball for the next three years and do great things.” With what we’ve seen so far, she is well on her way.