The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Sports

April 16, 2014

In transition

Former PV standout Olivia Holt is prepared for next chapter after wrapping her Mount Union basketball career

Pymatuning Valley graduate Olivia Holt had a distinct reason she chose to play basketball for Mount Union.

“They do have tradition,” Holt, the daughter of Gus and Michelle Holt, said. “I’m from PV. We had a tradition of winning and working hard there. I wanted to go somewhere that tradition mattered. I knew I was going to get better by coming here.”

That decision paid off as Holt worked her way up through the Purple Raiders’ ranks to become a starting guard and a team captain. Now, she is planning the rest of her life.

“It went extremely fast,” Holt said. “It is hard to believe (it’s over). It was a good career. I’m happy with it, but it did go extremely fast.

“Mostly (I will miss) the team and the things we did together. You make friends you won’t be able to replace or go without. We won championships together and I’ll never forget that.”

Holt’s time at Mount Union wasn’t easy at first. Having started early in her career with the Lakers, she wasn’t accustomed to working her way up the ladder.

“It was extremely challenging and extremely difficult,” Holt said. “When they’re in high school, a lot of people have the hope or aspirations to play in college. My freshman year was one of the most challenging things to have been a part of going from winning championships and playing all the time at PV to the bench.

“It was pretty humbling. Working hard as a high school player doesn’t compare to working hard as a college player. The time it takes up alone is ridiculous. It’s rewarding, but it’s challenging. It’s hard to believe I was able to make it through four years of that.”

Even after becoming a starter for the Purple Raiders, Holt rarely played the kind of minutes she was used to at PV. As a senior she averaged 19.9 minutes per game.

“That part of it was so hard to get used to,” Holt said. “I was used to playing the whole game and never coming out at PV. There were so many people ahead of me. They were the best of the best. It was so hard to get used to. There were 22 people in my freshman class and we’re graduating with four. It’s just so hard for people to get used to. You have to keep telling yourself your time will come.

“If you play two minutes, you have to be happy with playing two minutes. It’s not about how much you play or how many points you score. It’s about that Mount Union team winning. Our motto was ‘one heart, one goal, one team.’ The main things we focus on are team things. At the end of the day, what matters is that it’s Mount Union that’s winning.”

During her career, Holt learned not only from the coaching staff, but her teammates, too.

“There were multiple ways, and not only as a basketball player,” Holt said. “There were different coaching styles. I learned so much, not only from (Mount Union coach Suzy Venet), but from my teammates, as well. I had to improve. It’s either adapt or don’t play.

“I learned from watching and playing with them. There’s no way you can’t become a better leader. You learn to put your teammates first. You learn by example. As a freshman, the seniors were extremely welcoming but they were also extremely hard working. You remember that when you’re a senior and try to set the same example.”

Mount Union won the Ohio Athletic Conference twice and made three NCAA Tournament appearances during Holt’s career. The memories of those games will stick with her.

“All of (the memories) mean something different,” Holt said. “Making it to the NCAA Tournament my sophomore year after winning the OAC (is something I won’t forget). You can’t beat that feeling. That’s a feeling you can never get back. It was crazy. It’s definitely an experience I would want everyone to have.

“Our coach tried to make it as similar to a regular-season game as possible even though it’s one-and-done and there’s a lot pressure. She kept telling us it was just like any other game, but the first time you step on the floor and the ball comes to you, there’s a lot of pressure. It was great to have that opportunity with my team.”

The Purple Raiders actually hosted the early rounds of that tournament.

“I’m proud of my teammates,” Holt said. “I know how hard we worked and to see it pay off was the best feeling. Making the NCAA’s is something you will always hold with you and tell stories about. We got to host the first and second rounds. The whole school was behind us. Everyone was there. The whole community was there.”

As a senior, the Purple Raiders elected Holt to be one of their captains. It was an honor she was happy to accept, even if she had never really considered the possibility of being in that role.

“It’s humbling to have your teammates look up to you that much,” Holt said. “It’s also a lot of pressure. I was lucky to have a girl as co-captain to back me up.

“It definitely wasn’t something I always thought would happen or wanted to happen. All I was worried about was not messing up. For it to come full-circle and be a captain like I was at PV was a neat feeling.”

The support of Holt’s family was priceless.

“I could never replace my parents,” Holt said. “There aren’t enough words for me to use to thank them. My sister was at every game. My parents aren’t the type to put a lot pressure on me. No matter what happened, they were proud of me.”

As for the next phase of her life, Holt already has an iron in the fire.

“We’re waiting for the position and the hire to be approved,” Holt said. “If the position is approved, I’ll be hired on. It’s like a paid internship as a graduate assistant. Hopefully, it does get approved. I’d love to stay here.”

That doesn’t mean she is totally ready to “grow up.”

“I don’t think the basketball part will hit me until next season when the realization comes I won’t be practicing anymore. I’m not looking forward to it. I do look forward to no more classes, but being a grown up might be difficult.”

Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.

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