Ari­zona State re­cruit Hol­brook fin­ish­ing strong for Joliet Catholic

En­ter­ing 3A semi­fi­nals, out­side hit­ter a force with 54 kills in play­offs

Daily Southtown - - SPORTS - By Tony Baranek

When se­nior Emily Hol­brook steps on the court Fri­day to com­pete for Joliet Catholic in the Class 3A state semi­fi­nals, it will be a per­fect ca­reer book­end.

It will also ful­fill a dream the Ari­zona State re­cruit had while sit­ting on the bench at Red­bird Arena as a fresh­man.

“I got pulled up to­ward the end of that sea­son for the play­offs,” Hol­brook said. “I prac­ticed with them, but didn't get into a match.

“It was awe­some just be­ing a part of that team at state. I re­ally looked up to the up­per­class­men and told my­self I wanted to be a leader like that my se­nior year.”

Hol­brook, a 5-foot-8 out­side hit­ter, has been all that and more for the An­gels (27-13), who will meet Ster­ling (39-1) at 4 p.m. in the first semi­fi­nal.

In five play­off matches, Hol­brook has 54 kills, in­clud­ing 18 against Cham­paign Cen­tral and 16 against Nor­mal U-High in the sec­tional semi­fi­nals and fi­nals, re­spec­tively.

In the U-High match, she was noth­ing short of a sea­son saver.

The An­gels trailed 17-13 in Game 3 be­fore ral­ly­ing for a 25-23, 21-25, 25-20 vic­tory. Hol­brook, mean­while, had a fin­ish­ing kick for the ages.

Of her fi­nal 14 swings, 11 went for kills. She made no hit­ting er­rors.

“I just thought that no mat­ter what size block was in front of me, I wasn't go­ing to be de­nied,” Hol­brook said. “I was just go­ing to go out there and do my role and do ev­ery­thing for my team.

“My adren­a­line was at an all-time high. I feel every­one

else’s was as well. And we had the heart to pull through at the end.”

Hol­brook was an An­gel at heart long be­fore she stepped through the doors as a student, ac­cord­ing to coach Chris­tine Scheibe.

“She is just a player who has had her sights on play­ing at JCA since fifth or sixth grade,” Scheibe said. “She al­ways came to my camps and it has al­ways been a dream of hers to be an An­gel and play.

“To see her tak­ing a lead­er­ship role as a se­nior and not let any­one deny her is an in­spi­ra­tion to her team­mates and to me as a coach. She isn’t go­ing to let any­body down.”

Joliet Catholic has over­come a se­ries of in­juries and po­si­tion changes to play its best volleyball of the sea­son. Sopho­more Jil­lian Gray turned an emer­gency move to out­side hit­ter into a spark for the An­gels’ of­fense. Ju­nior Bella Ray has emerged as a mega-ef­fec­tive mid­dle hit­ter and blocker.

Changes? Hol­brook looks at them as chal­lenges.

“I’ve dealt with sit­u­a­tions like that be­fore, and I feel that it shouldn’t have an ef­fect on how you go about things,” Hol­brook said.

“I think it mo­ti­vated us more for every­one to do their role in what­ever po­si­tion they were placed at.

“We just think, ‘This is my role now. This is what I’m con­tribut­ing to.’ ”

Joliet Catholic is mak­ing its 12th state ap­pear­ance over­all and is seek­ing its fourth state cham­pi­onship un­der Scheibe. The An­gels fin­ished se­cond in 2015.

The match with Ster­ling gives Joliet Catholic a chance at re­venge.

In a 25-19, 19-25, 25-19 loss to Ster­ling on Aug. 25, the An­gels made 14 hit­ting er­rors, five serv­ing er­rors, eight block er­rors, three set­ting er­rors and five serve-re­ceive er­rors.

“Way too many (mis­takes),” Scheibe said. “Now, we are a to­tally dif­fer­ent team than when we played them the first time. It could be any­body’s match.”

Belleville Althoff (36-4) and Latin (35-2) will meet in the other semi­fi­nal match.

“Ev­ery team down there is good,” Scheibe said. “I think it’s go­ing to be a com­bi­na­tion of which teams can min­i­mize er­rors and show the most heart.”

GARY MIDDENDORF/DAILY SOUTH­TOWN

Joliet Catholic out­side hit­ter Emily Hol­brook is an Ari­zona State re­cruit.

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