Ryan Chartrand

Kylie Atherstone is a busy woman.

The Cal Poly volleyball season is over, but she continues to train and hone her skills. During spring break, Atherstone was not living it up on the beach, nor was she visiting family. Instead, she was playing volleyball in Colorado Springs, Colo., with the United States’ A2 women’s national team, training among the best players in the country who are not playing for the current national team.

“The facilities were amazing,” Atherstone said. “I was playing at the highest level, so obviously all I could do is get better.”

Atherstone, an outside hitter who will be a junior in 2007, has been on an upward path ever since she came to Cal Poly. Last summer, she trained in Omaha, Neb., with a group of 40 other collegiate women’s volleyball players who were being scouted for national-level potential.

Cal Poly head coach Jon Stevenson, who was a volunteer coach at that event, was impressed.

“I think Kylie did really well,” he said. “She is a really fantastic college volleyball player.”

And he wasn’t the only person to think so – Atherstone was chosen as the Big West Conference’s Co-Player of the Year along with Long Beach State’s Alexis Crimes. It was the first time a Mustang women’s volleyball player had been chosen for the award.

Additionally, Atherstone led the conference with 4.51 kills per game and 505 total kills.

“A lot of great things are happening for Kylie,” Stevenson said.

Were it not for some administrative errors involving paperwork submissions, Stevenson estimated that Atherstone could have easily garnered second-team All-American honors.

“Kylie ended up being, at the end of the year, our absolute go-to player,” Stevenson said.

After Cal Poly was bounced from the NCAA Tournament in the second round, Atherstone got right back to work – both on the hardwood and the sand – and with good reason.

Last week, Cal Poly was selected to the Collegiate Beach Volleyball Championship as the eighth and final seed of the eight-team tournament.

Both Atherstone and teammate Chelsea Hayes, who will be a senior setter next season, will compete with players from volleyball powers around the nation, including Minnesota, Texas and Stanford.

The Mustang duo’s first match will be against Nebraska, which won the 2006 national title on the court. Stevenson is confident in the pair’s chances for claiming first place at the tournament, which is being held Sunday in San Diego.

He also stressed the importance of such a victory, as Atherstone and Hayes could bring the title of national beach volleyball champions home with them to San Luis Obispo.

As for Atherstone, her year isn’t over, regardless of the finish in San Diego. On May 22, she will have the opportunity to head to Austin, Texas, along with the A2 team and compete in the USA Volleyball Adult Open Championships.

She’ll team up with nine other women, who were selected last summer.

To add more intrigue, USA Volleyball is fielding two teams in the tournament, and Stevenson points out that it’s possible both teams could end up clashing on the court.

Atherstone said she plans to stick with volleyball, even when she’s finished school.

“It’s just a matter of, after college, continuing to play and not slack off,” she said.

In the meantime, Stevenson said that he’s already excited about next season for Cal Poly, which has taken major strides under his leadership since 2005.

Getting to the NCAA Tournament was the first step. Now he’s focused on bringing home a national title so a banner can be hung from the rafters of Mott Gym.

He was also quick to heap praise on Cal Poly fans, who averaged 1,611 per match in 2006.

“I love my job,” he said. “I love Cal Poly. We have such a great fan base. We’ll have Mott rockin’.”

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