Growing up in Manhattan Beach – the “beach volleyball Mecca of the world”- Kristin Jackson is still a “beach baby” at heart who will always find a way to pursue her passion for sports and the great outdoors.
Ever since she was 5 years old, Jackson has been following in her competitive beach volleyball dad’s footsteps.
“He taught me how to play on the sand when I was little and it was something we always played for fun, either on the beach or in my backyard,” Jackson explained.
It wasn’t until 11 that Jackson started playing competitively on club teams in Orange County and Long Beach.
Jackson found that she enjoyed the sport so much that she chose to give up the other sports she was playing.
“I was playing softball, soccer and basketball as well as volleyball and chose to focus solely on volleyball and soccer,” Jackson said.
Once she entered Mira Costa High, Jackson was balancing her passions for volleyball and soccer throughout the school year.
Jackson would play club soccer and high school volleyball in the fall and club volleyball and high school soccer in the winter and spring.
However, when it came time to pick between her two favorites, she knew exactly where her heart was.
“By my senior year I had to pick one sport and there was no question that my heart was set on volleyball,” Jackson said.
She says this decision was easy to make considering her at Mira Costa high won three CIF championships.
“I also played a lot of beach volleyball in the AAU tournaments as well as received my AA rating on the beach as a sophomore in high school,” Jackson said.
After high school, Jackson moved to San Luis Obispo to start her freshman year at Cal Poly. She chose to major in recreation and began her first season with the Mustang women’s volleyball team.
Now, at age 22, Jackson is finishing her senior year at Cal Poly with a bang.
So far this year, Jackson has already broken the record for all-time digs at Cal Poly as well as in the Big West Conference.
“I am 27 digs away from entering the NCAA records book as one of 24 players to reach 2,000 career digs,” Jackson explained. She may reach this record during this weekend’s game against Cal State Fullerton.
Jackson’s talents in serve and receive passing, digging and serving have helped Jackson aid the women’s volleyball team achieve its 11-1 record in the Big West and a 17-7 overall record.
“I would say that my quickness and passion on defense has made me a player who never gives up or lets a ball drop on the floor. I love digging hard balls and making great plays,” she said.
Jackson says her consistency as a defensive player is what she most confidently brings to the team.
“My role is to control the back row, whether it is by passing, digging or communicating with my teammates,” Jackson said. “I believe as a senior I have earned the respect and trust from my teammates, which has allowed me to hold them to [the] highest standards on the court and to push them, as well as myself, to play the best we can.”
Trust and respect are exactly what Jackson has earned from her teammates.
“I know that as a hitter I have complete trust in her, and I know that she will get the ball up to let the hitters get a swing,” said junior opposite Kylie Atherstone. “She often does not get any credit for all the work she does, but it’s a fact that I would not have as much success on the court if it was not for her being there to dig. She is an amazing player and deserves a lot of credit.”
Other teammates describe Jackson as the “spark” on the court with a drive that makes all the difference.
“She brings this energy onto the court that is indescribable,” explained sophomore outside hitter Salah Schoenecke. “She is at practice everyday with a great attitude, working 110 percent and that is the reason why she is so great and fun to watch.”
No matter how hard Jackson may work or how well she “sparkles” on the court, she never lets any of it get to her head.
“The best thing about Kristin is how humble she is and how selfless she is,” Schoenecke said. “She isn’t in it to make herself look good, instead she works hard on he court for us and that’s one of the most amazing qualities in a teammate”
Above all, Jackson values the team player in her considering she has played team sports all her life and she has learned how to work with her teammates to reach a common goal.
“I love my team. Each and every girl on the team brings something different to the floor,” Jackson said. “Whether it’s skill or motivation, each person plays a different role and makes this team what it is.”
Still, as in every team sport, Jackson admits there are moments of frustration.
“My teammates know that if I get frustrated it’s only out of love because I hold them to such high standards,” she said. “I know how good each player on my team can be so when I see them give up it’s only because I know they are better than that.”
Jackson also admits that the same goes for herself.
“I can get frustrated with myself when I don’t dig a ball that I know I could have. I think in the end, it makes me and my teammates better because you know that your effort on the court not only affects you but your teammates as well,” she said.
Improving daily on things such as passing and defense, and finishing out this season the best she can are two goals Jackson has set for herself in her last season with the Mustangs.
“Our team is on a constant run upwards. We just keep getting better and better,” Atherstone said. “Every week that goes by, we are getting closer and closer to the NCAA and we are so excited for it.”
If the women’s volleyball team keeps up its drive and two-and-a-half hours of practice a day, there should be no disappointment.
“We will get there by continuing to improve in practice and with every game we play,” senior setter Chelsea Hayes said. “By the time the tournament comes we want to be at our peak and we’ll have the opportunity to go very far.”
However, before the NCAA Tournament can become more of a reality, the team will come together on Saturday against Fullerton.
“There isn’t one tough game. The game that matters to us is the game that is next,” sophomore defensive specialist Caitlin Suttich said. “The best way to approach it (is) if we take each play with the desire to win, we will win every game.”