Cameras have been following Ellie Holzman around for a few days now, but that has become the norm recently for Louisiana’s three-time Gatorade Volleyball Player of the Year.
So, when Holzman was eating a salad in Mount Carmel Academy’s cafeteria on Wednesday afternoon, the Illinois signee was startled to see her teammates, friends and family march into the room holding the Gatorade National Player of the Year award.
“I had no idea,” Holzman said over phone on Wednesday afternoon. “It was a complete shock, but it was incredible to have the people I love so much to present it to me.”
Passion. Perseverance. Power. Meet @ellieholzman, whose dedication to the game and unrivaled skill set established her as one of the top high school athletes in the nation and our 2018-2019 Gatorade National Volleyball Player of the Year! #GatoradePOY https://t.co/os5gspZdEd pic.twitter.com/QrZVuvjQxq— Gatorade (@Gatorade) January 23, 2019
With a decorated player like Holzman joining the club, Illinois Volleyball may very well be on its way back to the Final Four.
After a magical run to Minneapolis in December, one could argue that it has been Illinois’ offseason that is going even better. In late December, the Illini added an Auburn transfer, setter Mica Allison, to its roster.
Now, it’s adding a National Player of the Year.
Holzman was named the 2018-19 Gatorade National Volleyball Player of the Year on Wednesday at Mount Carmel Academy in New Orleans.
“It’s an honor to be recognized for this and it’s something I definitely didn’t even think was possible,” Holzman said.
Holzman signed with the Illini in late November, right before Illinois started its NCAA Tournament run.
A 6-foot-2 senior middle blocker and outside hitter, Holzman led the Mount Carmel Academy Cubs to a 42-2 record and a fourth-straight Division I state championship this past season. Holzman was also named a two-time MaxPreps First Team All-American selection, a three-time Gatorade Louisiana Volleyball Player of the Year, and volunteers locally with an anti-drug program and as a youth volleyball and basketball coach.
She also won a state championship in girls basketball, but — from all of the accolades — her favorite high school memory was her last volleyball title.
“My senior year was definitely special being the last one and having such a big role on the team,” Holzman said. “But it’s been a storybook ending and I couldn’t ask for a better way to go out, and to have the people I love around me is incredible.”
According to The Advocate, MCA has taken home the state award six years in a row, with Holzman claiming the honors the last three years after two from Katie Kampen and one from Kristen Nuss.
Illinois Volleyball head coach Chris Tamas already congratulated Holzman after she won her third state Player of the Year title last week, and she has no idea what to expect from the third-year head coach after taking home the national crown.
“I don’t even know. My reaction was just shocked, so I don’t even know what [Tamas is] going to say.”
Holzman concluded her prep career with 2,426 kills, 1,379 digs and 749 blocks, with a hitting percentage as a senior sitting at an absurd .486.
According to Holzman, Illinois was the final school she visited. The visit included bonding time with the team and coaching staff, as well as attending a game at Huff Hall, where she said “the energy was amazing.”
On the visit, Holzman said: “I fell in love with the coaching staff, the team, the environment and their attitude and positivity. The school has great academics and I’m looking forward to that challenge. It’s just a feeling, and when you know you know, and I felt comfortable and like it was home and that’s where I’m supposed to be.”
Notably, the Illini graduated middle blocker Ali Bastianelli and setter Jordyn Poulter after last season’s run, with Allison and Holzman trying to replace their production.
But Holzman says she’ll take on whatever is needed of her when she joins the Illini this summer.
“There’s definitely some big shoes to fill. I just want to fill whatever role is needed on or off the court.”
The Gatorade Player of the Year award is the most prestigious award in high school sports, recognizing the nation’s most elite high school student-athletes in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states. Student-athletes are evaluated not only for outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character.
Since the program’s inception in 1985, Gatorade Player of the Year has awarded a distinguished list of athletes including Peyton Manning, Abby Wambach, Karl-Anthony Towns, Derek Jeter and many other sports icons. For more information, visit www.Gatorade.com/POY.
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