Holt, team prepares for MAC season

Amanda Vasil

Senior outside hitter Danielle Holt has helped to lead Kent State volleyball to a 4-7 record and will continue her success when the Flashes play Buffalo tonight at 7 p.m. in the M.A.C. Center.

Credit: Jason Hall

If it weren’t for Kent State volleyball, senior outside hitter Danielle Holt would probably be at mortuary school right now, not preparing for tonight’s game against Buffalo.

Instead, the psychology major who said she intends to work at a funeral home after graduation is helping to lead the Flashes (4-7) to a win against Buffalo (7-5) at 7 p.m. tonight and against Akron (5-7) at 7 p.m. tomorrow at the M.A.C. Center.

Since playing at Kent State, Holt has continually added distinctions and awards to her name, as well as the university’s name. In her first year, she set the single-season record of 495 kills at Kent State, which she has since improved upon. In her sophomore year, Holt produced 45 kills in a five-game match against Mid- American Conference competitor Western Michigan, setting a school, conference and tournament record and leading the nation in kills. This also tied her for 13th all-time for kills in a five-game match in the NCAA.

Kent State coach Mora Kanim said she was in awe at the power and concentration Holt had during that particular match.

“You always talk about players being in the zone and watching players when they’re in the zone,” she said. “Danielle hits a ball harder than probably 90 percent of the people that play volleyball. Every ball she hit was perfect. Everything she touched was golden.”

Now in her senior year, Holt recently tallied one more merit not only to her name, but to Kent State’s name as well. At the Kent State Invitational Sept. 9 and 10, she reached 1,662 kills and 1,050 digs, making her the fourth player in university history to surpass 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs in a career. She also ranks second in school history in total number of kills.

Kanim said she admires Holt’s achievements because it shows she’s well-rounded in both offensive and defensive play. Holt credits her athletic and competitive drive to her accomplishment, but also recognizes she always has room for improvement.

“I want to get records like those just to leave my imprint on Kent,” she said. “You come here for a reason. You don’t come here just to be an average player. You come here to be one of the best.”

Being the best comes with many sacrifices, however. Holt said she finds it hard to balance volleyball, school and her social life at times, but looks to her daily routine to get her through.

“I go to school in the morning,” she said. “Then I go to lunch, go to training, go to volleyball, eat dinner, go work out and go home. You have about an hour to study, and then you go to bed. If you want to spend time with someone, you do it while you’re studying. You can’t mess with the routine.”

Being a volleyball player hasn’t always been so hectic for Holt. She began playing in seventh grade because it was a popular sport and all her friends had already signed up. Unlike her friends, though, Holt frequently sat the bench during games.

“I don’t know why I kept playing volleyball because they didn’t play me,” Holt said. “I usually wouldn’t have stayed.”

Even though she was benched, Holt continued to play volleyball through middle school until she was asked to aid a travel team that had unexpectedly lost a player. After that, she began training with the high school coach and joined the volleyball team as a hitter. She focused strictly on volleyball after her freshman year of high school.

When it came to choosing a college, Holt wasn’t even considering playing volleyball for a university, but ended up joining the roster her junior year of high school.

“Honestly, I wasn’t one who wanted to play college volleyball because I was sick of it,” she said. “When I decided I wanted to play, Kent State was definitely a choice.”

Kanim said she first noticed Holt at an Indianapolis tournament and thought she was very talented and a strong competitor and leader. Holt’s powerful hitting was a major hook for Kanim.

“I was walking by her court, and I heard it before I saw it,” Kanim said. “I turned around and watched this player from Galion, Ohio hammering out balls.”

Kanim said she’s watched Holt improve over the years in her hitting and offense approaches, but her defensive skills have shown the most growth.

Not only has Holt shown growth in her play abilities, she’s also learned to take on a more active role as a leader and captain on the team. Kanim said she finds herself more excited when Holt demonstrates leadership qualities than when she kills a ball.

“There have been many times that she’s made her team better whether it was on the court or off the court, and I’m never sure she recognizes it,” she said. “I know physically she’s going to make us more successful. The fun times are when she does something to make everyone around her that much better.”

Holt said she thinks this year is going to be more of a challenge than her previous years. Being the person who everyone looks to for advice and leadership, along with needing to stay strong for the team will be difficult, she said.

Luckily, her relationships with the other senior players, Anne Butts and Katie Mang, will allow her to funnel her competitiveness and successfully lead the team. The three have been together since their freshman year and have learned each other’s tendencies, both on and off the court.

“Butts and I understand each other,” Holt said. “We’re the same person. Mang and I are total opposites, so we can go out and have fun. We’ve lived together for two years. She’s the person who can calm me down. Butts and I just feed off each other.”

As the team prepares to take on Buffalo and Akron this weekend, Holt said she finds herself more excited than worried. After competing against strong teams in the pre-season, Holt said she feels the team is ready for MAC play.

Ultimately, she said she hopes to become MAC Player of the Year, but she knows the competition from other seniors will be tough. She also said she would like to make the All-MAC First Team and end on a winning season.

Working with Holt has been both an amazing experience and a big challenge, Kanim said. Their personalities are very alike in that they are both competitive and both want to see the team succeed.

“She’s taught me a lot, and hopefully I’ve taught her a lot,” Kanim said. “I think she’s going to be a big part of the success we’re going to have this season. She’s very motivated to help lead her team to a MAC championship.”

Contact volleyball reporter Amanda Vasil at [email protected].