Big gun leaves lasting mark

Kate Bostwick led Pendleton in kills, digs, serve percentage and serve receive percentage in 2008. <br><I>Staff photo by E.J. Harris

It's something mechanical, almost robotic - yet when observed is something smooth and effortless - says first year Pendleton coach Chelsie Freeman trying to paint the picture of a Kate Bostwick kill.

"She's genetically engineered," Freeman said with a laugh.

For a statistic that sounds so threatening, Bostwick's style turns the kill into more of an art form.

It's not just the sledge hammer attached to her right shoulder, though, it's the motion, the mechanics - it's the way a girl no taller than five-foot, seven inches soars above the net to the envy of those already gifted with prototypical front court height.

"It's kind of amazing," junior outside hitter Kayla Stewart said. "Her approach is so smooth and it's just way natural for her. When you see her approach you just know she's going to jump out of the gym."

As for herself, Bostwick has no idea where the spring in her legs comes from. Between playing volleyball since a young age and a diligent devotion to hurdles during the spring seasons of her high school career she could not say which has given her the biggest edge.

Perhaps it was just the natural evolution of a born volleyball player.

"It just happened, I don't know," said Bostwick who started playing year round in eighth grade, adding club volleyball to her usual in-school season. "I guess I don't think of myself as being able to jump that high, I just get up as high as girls who are taller than me. I have to make up for my height, I guess."

Making up for her lack of usual size - most Division 1 college outside hitters generally bottom out at five-feet, 11 inches - was vital and it paid off in a big way when the senior Buckaroo signed a letter of intent to play for the Portland Pilots under new coach Joe Houck.

"Being a good defensive player and passing are both more important at the collegiate level," said Bostwick. "It's a bonus if you can get a hitter to pass well. I was always told you have to work on your passing and defense because that's what I'd be doing at that level with most outside hitters being six feet and above."

Bostwick working on that part of her game was evident to the team and Freeman, who was floored by her senior leader's work ethic that went along with her supreme natural ability.

The Bucks' new coach noted that Bostwick was much more than just a star player, possessing an insatiable desire to be better every day along with a truly humble personality.

"It's one in a million," Freeman said. "There are not a lot of athletes that are as talented as her and are humble every time they play. I think everybody on the team respects her and I think her earning (Intermountain Conference) player of the year is a big tribute to that part of her because other coaches recognize that.

"And it wasn't just because she's a great athlete, it's the other part that's going to send her a long way in life."

According to Stewart, the leadership aspect of Bostwick's game is the most important thing the Bucks will take away from their departing captain.

"She always pushes us to get better and to try hard all the time," Stewart said. "That's what we're trying to take away from having her (as a teammate)."

Bostwick, though, will be taking all the tricks of the trade she learned from her multiple coaches at the high school level to the next stage, and hopes it is enough to excel at a more imposing level of competition.

Stepping into the situation at Portland will be a smooth transition for her, and Bostwick expects to step onto the court ready to go next fall.

"It'll be a big jump," she said. "Playing club, I get to see a lot of players that go onto that level so it'll be a jump but that's why I want to go to school. I want to push myself to do something that's not the easiest thing to do and I think it'll be a good experience for me."

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