Caroline Holt looks to make the most of her time at Notre Dame following transfer from Loyola
Elizabeth Greason | Thursday, September 8, 2016
It is not all that common for an athlete to join a program halfway through her collegiate career. It is even less common for that athlete to make an immediate impact on that program. Notre Dame junior setter Caroline Holt is the exception to that rule.
Holt’s full-fledged pursuit of volleyball began later than most, as she also played softball and basketball growing up. However, Holt was drawn to the sport for a variety of reasons, and when it came to college athletics, volleyball came out on top.
“I’m kind of odd in that way, I guess,” Holt said. “I didn’t start playing volleyball competitively for a club until junior year of high school. I always played school ball, but I also played basketball and softball. I started playing club and that was a big time commitment and it was really fun. I loved all the girls and traveling and just the speed of volleyball is really fun. And I liked the people in the volleyball family. As you grow older, you start to recognize girls and coaches and it’s a pretty small volleyball world, so just the community is pretty fun to get into. But just essentially the intensity and the speed of the game was very intriguing to me. And it was just really fun to play.”
Holt began her collegiate career by playing two seasons of Division I volleyball at Loyola University Chicago. She joined the Irish midway through her sophomore year, in the spring of 2016. Although the decision to transfer was not an easy one, Holt knows she made the right one, as she wanted to be pushed to her limits.
“When I went to Loyola, I loved the school aspect of it and I loved the girls and even though things didn’t work out there, I still loved my time there,” Holt said. “But I just wanted something more volleyball-wise and here, it’s completely night and day. It’s everything that I dreamed of. People say Notre Dame is their dream school — I now understand why. It’s an amazing place to be and I’m so happy to be here. I’m really grateful for the opportunity that [Irish head coach] Jim [McLaughlin] and [assistant head coach] Mike [Johnson] and [assistant coach] Katie Wilson and all of the administration and my teammates have given me. My teammates were so accepting of me coming and the transition was really easy, and so, I’m really blessed to be here.”
In her two seasons at Loyola (Chicago), Holt racked up over two thousand assists, earned the title of team captain, and made a name for herself nationally, placing 24th on the national assists leaderboard her freshman year. But Holt’s ambitions of a future in the volleyball world needed more than the Loyola (Chicago) program could offer her. According to Holt, those ambitions need exactly what McLaughlin has to offer her.
“Everyone knows Jim in the volleyball world,” Holt said. “He’s great. So that was a really big deciding factor for me because I did want something more volleyball-wise and I have aspirations of playing after and I know that Jim has a really good track record of producing the best players in the world, especially setters. So, when I got to talk to Jim for the first time on the phone it was a pretty exciting moment and also pretty humbling because I knew how much work that I had to put in to play for him. But it’s everything that I dreamed of so far. … I would like to play volleyball at the highest level and I know that takes a lot of hard work, and I know I’m not exactly there yet, and I know that, where I am right now and the resources that I have right now can help me get to that point.”
While the mid-year transition was not easy for the Illinois native, she noted that the Notre Dame community made it as seamless as possible and allowed her to launch into the fall season headfirst.
“Like I said, Notre Dame’s a pretty special place,” Holt said. “Everyone here is accepting and just all-around caring and kind. Academically, I mean, it’s Notre Dame, so it’s going to be pretty challenging, but there are so many resources here that I’m able to use, so that’s helpful. My teammates mean the world to me. They’re just a great group of girls and I automatically had best friends when I came here, so that was pretty nice. I know it’s probably pretty hard getting a new player that’s not a freshman and to try to get them to learn your system. But that’s why I’m really glad that I came in the spring because I was able to kind of get that training under my belt and be ready for this fall.”
And Holt was nothing if not ready for this fall. The junior setter has already picked up nearly 250 assists in Notre Dame’s (4-2) first six matches this year. Despite her success up to this point, however, Holt often flies under the radar with the crowd and media outlets, as kills and digs typically draw more attention than assists, making her the unsung hero of the team. Holt says that this doesn’t bother her in the slightest, but is, in fact, exactly what she wants.
“I’ve never really liked attention,” Holt said. “I can’t even handle giving a speech in front of eight people, so I’d say with everything that I’ve done, I mean, in basketball I was the point guard, in softball I was a shortstop and now volleyball being a setter, they’re all very important positions, but they also are the ones not always getting the glory. Which is fine for me. I like helping others achieve their goals, so if that means I have to be really good at my job and be consistent in my sets for my hitters to get a kill and hit at a high hitting percentage, then I’ll do that for them. And they would do the same things for me. And the passers do the same thing for me. Give me good opportunities to have good sets.”
Holt has high hopes for both herself and her team in the 2016 season and she fully believes that if she and her teammates put in the work, they will meet those hopes.
“Personally [my goal] is just to make the team better,” Holt said. “Overall, I want to win, so I’ll do whatever it takes. We have our goals of winning the ACC this year and making it to the NCAA tournament and I think we can truly do that and everyone’s all in, so, we’ll see how it goes. [I’m motivated by] knowing that I have the opportunity to, with this group of girls and this group of coaches, to turn this program around. I think that’s a pretty big deal to us. So, I’d say that motivates me every day to be the best I can, because I want to be able to turn this program around.”