CSU’s Bestgen makes transition from walk-on to key asset

Haleigh Hamblin

Junior Kaitlind Bestgen joined the CSU volleyball team as a walk-on four years ago and has become a key contributor for the seventh-ranked Rams. (Photo credit: Eliot Foust)
Junior Kaitlind Bestgen joined the CSU volleyball team as a walk-on four years ago and has become a key contributor for the seventh-ranked Rams. (Photo credit: Eliott Foust)

Not all players in high school are given the opportunity to continue their dreams of becoming a college athlete, especially one on a consistently ranked team.

For Kaitlind Bestgen, her decision to join the No. 7 Colorado State volleyball team came late into her senior year when Head Coach Tom Hilbert attended a match at Rocky Mountain High School.

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“Tom just came to one of my high school games and he talked to my coach and was like I would really like her to try walking on,” Bestgen said.

Bestgen, now a junior, took an opportunity given to her in December of her senior year to play college volleyball. She ended up making the team, redshirting her first year to allow herself the chance to grow more in the defensive position before making her debut on the court.

“It was definitely a huge learning curve,” Bestgen said. “I never lifted weights and I didn’t really know what to expect coming in. I just went in with an open mind and was ready to contribute in any way I can. I remember Katelyn Steffan, she was a senior my freshman year and she was just a good quiet leader and you don’t really find that a lot.”

It was not always easy for Bestgen. With new fundamentals to learn, different techniques on her standing floater serve that has transitioned into a jump-floater as well as the rotations, she has worked hard to be where she is on the CSU volleyball team.

Now she is an occasional starter and consistently plays off the bench, and Bestgen is a go-to player for key defensive plays as well as needed service aces. In 15 matches this season, Bestgen totals 15 service aces with eight digs.

CSU uses Bestgen’s serving arm to rally back from being down late in sets as well as pull away from teams with her accurate placement. In several press conferences this season Hilbert has talked about the role Bestgen has on this team and how good she really is.

“I thought that we were patient. One of our main keys was to win the passing and serving battle here, and we for sure did,” Hilbert said after defeating VCU. “A great deal of it was this lady (Bestgen) right here. If we can get that kind of production out of her and half of that in matches that we play throughout the year, that’s really good.”

Bestgen, a Fort Collins native, grew up attending CSU volleyball games with her dad who has had season tickets for the last ten years. Bestgen also played soccer for ten years before she picked up a volleyball for the first time where she initially played to start something new, though it was only a matter of time before she came to love the sport.

“It is really cool playing here,” Bestgen said. “I always watched those games and thought I could be one of those girls playing on the court and get to be somebody else’s role model.”

Bestgen began her volleyball career as a hitter on the right and opposite side the majority of the time. It was not until the spring of her junior year in high school that she transitioned over the the defensive specialist position.

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“When I got to high school I played club at Premier volleyball club and then ended up moving to NorCo Volleyball when I was 16 and that is where I stayed until college,” Bestgen said.

With little experience in the back row, Bestgen did not get many offers heading into college and thought that her time playing on the court would be finished. Hilbert has an eye for finding great volleyball players from all across the country and world, and it turned out Bestgen was just a few minute drive away from where she truly belonged.

Three years ago, Bestgen walked onto the court in Moby Arena to prove herself in front of veteran players and some of the top coaches in the country, but now she takes the court in every match and leaves coaches, players and fans in awe.

“I know I need to be one of the best servers in the Mountain West and I know I need to be contributing as far as serve receive goes and defense,” Bestgen said. “I feel like we have a really good chance at winning the Mountain West and really competing to be the best. I am eager to see how the other teams compete and show up and I am excited to see how we do in the Mountain West and NCAA’s.”

At the end of the day though, no matter what the result, Bestgen is content with the fact that she’s actually living the dream she had as a kid.

Collegian Sports Reporter Haleigh Hamblin can be reached at sports@collegian.com and on Twitter @haleighhamblin.