Aspen grad set to play volleyball at Cornell College
July 24, 2009
ASPEN – Former Aspen High School volleyball standout Kylie Westerlind will soon enjoy new digs.
After a year in which she helped the Skiers orchestrate one of the biggest one-season turnarounds in the program’s recent history, the setter will pursue volleyball at the next level. Westerlind is heading to Division III Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa.
“I’m excited to be going off to college and studying what I love and playing volleyball,” Westerlind said Thursday. “I’m a little nervous with all of it, too, because it’s going to be a whole different setup.”
Westerlind showed little apprehension during a stellar senior season in which she garnered all-conference recognition. The team captain piled up 496 assists, according to the school’s website, a total which included a Sept. 6 match against Olathe in which she set up teammates 51 times.
She provided some punch of her own on offense, too, compiling the second-highest kills total on the team, head coach Clayton Dahlman said Thursday.
Her contributions helped the Skiers improve from three wins in 2007 to 12 and a playoff berth last fall.
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“Kylie is really going to prosper in the college environment,” Dahlman said. “She has such a delicate setter’s touch and would be an asset to any program. … She’ll be tough to replace. We don’t have a setter coming up with the attack and the same intelligence and offensive [skill] as she brought.”
That unique blend of touch and power did not go unnoticed. Westerlind applied to and was accepted to 10 different colleges – the majority of which were in the Midwest, where her mother was born and where her brother Brian plays basketball and football at Grinnell College in Iowa. Every school wanted her to play volleyball.
Westerlind visited Cornell in the summer before her senior year and said she was struck by the area, the people and the liberal arts school’s academic possibilities. She first contacted the school’s head volleyball coach, Jeff Meeker, soon after when she was distributing information to a wide range of colleges.
A few weeks after the conclusion of the 2008 volleyball season, Meeker visited Westerlind in Aspen. The two talked about the program and where Westerlind might fit in.
Meeker left with a resume and a highlight video. Westerlind left impressed, she said.
“I hadn’t even applied there yet, because when I went to visit he was out of town,” added Westerlind, who also played guard on the Aspen basketball team. “[His visit] was definitely one of the deciding factors. … You could really see the dedication he has to the program.”
Little more than a week after the meeting, Westerlind said she sent Cornell a formal application. A few months later, she received her acceptance letter.
She leaves for Iowa Aug. 10. Formal training starts Aug. 18.
Cornell is in need of setters; Meeker told Westerlind the Rams have one full-time returning player at that position, and recruited a total of two others. Still, Westerlind has been given no guarantees (Division III does not offer athletic scholarships), only the chance to compete.
That’s just fine with her.
“It’ll be a chance for me to show myself and all of that,” she added. “I’m just happy to get to play the sport I love.”
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