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U.S. OLYMPIC FESTIVAL : Divine Inspiration Attracted Kyman

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

Coley Kyman is 6-foot-5, 200 pounds, handsome, gregarious and one of the top young volleyball players in the nation.

He also is painfully honest. Even when spilling the truth gets a bit painful.

“The truth is,” he said, pausing to prepare his words, “what drew me into volleyball was girls.”

Following basketball practice on a recreation team he was playing with four years ago, he caught his first glimpse.

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“They were all playing volleyball--I mean really cute girls--so I talked to the coach and they needed another guy so I figured I’d try it,” Kyman said, grinning sheepishly at the memory.

“It looked like fun and the basketball coach said he didn’t care. He said it might be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to play.”

Or, as it turned out, the first of a lifetime of chances.

Kyman has since advanced from the rec leagues to the big leagues.

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Two weeks ago, he was selected most valuable player at the junior nationals in Toledo, Ohio. This week, he is a starting middle blocker for the North team at the U. S. Olympic Festival.

His has been a whirlwind climb up the competition ladder, starting with that co-ed game in 1985.

“It was fun, but I never expected anything out of it,” Kyman said.

Gifted with size and quickness, Kyman was a volleyball natural. His coach recommended that he take up the sport more seriously when he enrolled at Reseda High that fall.

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Kyman said he might, only to find out that Reseda didn’t have a team. But it was only a temporary setback.

The following year Reseda added volleyball and Kyman earned back-to-back City Section 3-A Division Player of the Year awards by the time he graduated in June.

All of which led to a major decision during April’s NCAA signing period. Would it be football or volleyball?

Football always had been Kyman’s favorite sport. He had pictured himself at quarterback, leading a major college team to championships much as he had at Reseda, which won the City 2-A title his junior year.

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There were offers, too--from Nevada Las Vegas and Miami of Ohio. “Playing college football was something I’d wanted to do my whole life,” Kyman said. “But I decided to go with volleyball.”

The college he chose was Cal State Northridge, which is a five-minute drive from his home. Northridge also is regularly located somewhere near the bottom of the Western Intercollegiate Volleyball Assn. standings.

Oh, there were other schools interested, but Kyman struggled in the classroom. And many questioned his ability.

“It’s just been in the last year or so that he’s really become a high-caliber player,” said Rod Wilde, the North coach and an assistant at Pepperdine. “He’s just starting to work at it full-time and he’s come a long way fast.”

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Kyman is hopeful he can take Northridge on an ascent with him.

“At the junior nationals a lot of people were telling me that coaches were saying that they had no idea I was so good,” Kyman said. “People were saying, ‘We should have got that guy.’

“But Northridge really wanted me and I can hardly wait to play for them. Hopefully, if I work hard, I can help Northridge become a better program and we’ll start beating some of those teams from over the hill.”

Kyman is familiar with the challenges that teams like UCLA, USC and Pepperdine pose. He was a linesman at Northridge home games during the past season.

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“I’m going to go in there and learn as much as I can and be a leader as much as I can,” Kyman said. “I’ve always been on winning teams and I’m sure I will be at Northridge, too.”

Wilde, whose Pepperdine team ranks annually among the nation’s best, expects that Kyman will make an impact for the Matadors.

“I think he can be a very good player at the college level,” he said. “I’m sure Northridge will probably put a lot of responsibility on his shoulders and I’m sure Coley will be up to it.”

Certainly he will be coming off a summer of rave reviews.

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Kyman followed his dominating play in the junior nationals with a spirited performance in his Olympic Festival debut Tuesday. He had 18 kills, seven digs, six blocks and a team-high .531 hitting percentage with only one error in 32 chances.

“We call him ‘Machine Gun’ because he has such quick arms,” Wilde said.

If Kyman has a flaw in his game, Wilde said, it’s his jumping ability, which is only average.

“But he’ll get stronger and he’ll be a better jumper, too, now that he’s working at volleyball full-time,” Wilde predicted.

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Exactly how long he will continue focusing solely on volleyball is something he hasn’t decided, however.

“I’m going to play football again someday,” said Kyman, who discussed the possibility with Northridge football Coach Bob Burt. “But for this year, anyway, I’ll be concentrating just on volleyball.”

Unless, of course, a few cute girls are seen out by the football field.


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