CSUSM volleyball player follows in dad’s footsteps on and off the court

SAN DIEGO -- Playing volleyball always seemed to be a natural fit for Ashley Pedersen. The Cal State San Marcos outside hitter spent much of her childhood watching her dad play, never thinking she'd follow in his footsteps when it came to officiating.

“I would watch him ref and I'm like, that looks fun and so I'd go and grab a ball and kind of play by myself and eventually other coaches would see me playing and they would come and try to teach me things," said Ashley, a Rancho Buena Vista High School grad.

Fast forward to her senior year at CSUSM,  Pedersen's volleyball career started when she began following her dad to games.

"She'd sit around in the ref rooms or come help me shagging balls for the coaches and then sitting on the court next to me when she was like 5 or 6 years old," said her dad, John.

John learned how to play while serving in the Marine Corps. After 20 years of military service, he retired and decided to continue his love for volleyball by becoming a referee.

"You go to a clinic where you'll sit down and spend hours and hours going over the rules and how to interpret the rules," said John. "And then they put you out on a court and you're pretty much running the court and they're seeing what you do right and what you do wrong."

Sixteen years later, he's become a nationally ranked ref with USA Volleyball and even convinced Ashley to give it a try.

"Eventually I was like yeah, you know what, this is a good idea and seeing him do it made me want to be as professional as he is and be a part of it and it's really easy knowing the sport and everything," said Ashley.

"We've reffed high school and juniors volleyball together too," said John. "It's just the greatest because I'm looking across at her and she's doing her job and she's looking across at me and we're doing the same job and we're both loving it."

Although dad isn't allowed to ref within her collegiate conference, Ashley says he rarely misses the chance to watch her play the game he inspired her to pursue.

"I know that he's put in a lot of his time and effort into shaping me into the volleyball player and person that I am today," said Ashley. "So to have him come out and see all the hard work that me and my team have put into this program is something that's really special and I hope I make him proud."

And proud might be an understatement.

"It's the greatest," said John. "It's the greatest thing ever. It's really hard, I'm sitting up there and I'm the dad and I'm so excited for her and every time she plays. It's just the greatest thing ever.”

The Cal State women's volleyball team finishes the season with three road games against UCSD, Cal State Los Angeles and Cal State Dominguez Hills.