Vanguard alum cements defensive status
Published: Thursday, August 23, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 22, 2012 at 10:49 p.m.
With a valuable year of experience under her belt, former Ocala Vanguard High School standout Holly Pole will be a vital link in the chain for the 2012 Florida volleyball team.
What: Campus USA Credit Union Invitational
Who: Florida, Florida Gulf Coast, Florida A&M and Florida International
When: Starting at 5:30 p.m. Friday, and starting at 10 a.m. Saturday
Where: O'Connell Center
Pole, a sophomore, played in 24 matches (60 sets) as a true freshman, including four starts. Most of her action came late in the season, when the stakes were the highest.
Against Missouri in her first NCAA Tournament match, Pole more than doubled her previous career-high of nine digs with 20 to help UF register a big win. She finished the season with 85 digs and handled 155 opposing serves with only six errors, a solid .961 reception percentage.
“Last year was definitely a learning experience,” Pole said. “I got a good amount of playing time, and I was thrown out there with all of the seniors, even fifth-year seniors, as a group. I learned a lot, and I'm really looking forward to this year.”
As a prep star, Pole set a school and Marion County single-season record with 665 kills and twice earned Ocala Star-Banner Player of the Year honors while helping Vanguard reach the 2010 state semifinals. But defensively she was just as impressive, leading the team in digs each of her last two seasons.
In addition, the versatile Pole helped the VHS girls' basketball team reach the state semis as a junior.
An outstanding student, Pole was in the IB Program for three years at Vanguard and graduated a semester early, joining UF in January 2011 as a recruited walk-on — the equivalent in Olympic sports to a preferred walk-on in revenue sports.
After earning 2011 SEC All-Academic honors, Pole heads into 2012 as one of UF's top defensive specialists.
“Coming here in January last year really put her ahead of the other freshmen,” UF coach Mary Wise said. “She already had a great understanding of the game and for where the ball is going, but like all freshmen, just needed to adjust to the speed of the game at this level. She's just going to continue to get better the more she plays.”
“It's a lot different coming into this year,” Pole said. “Last year I wasn't really sure what to expect. Even in the spring, even though I was here, it was completely different. Now, I'm actually one of the older girls on the team, so it's more of a leading role than it is learning and following after the seniors.”
Being a local product and lifelong Gator fan is just icing on the cake.
“It's so great,” Pole said. “As long as I can remember, I dreamed of playing volleyball for the University of Florida. Every day I walk in here, it's just amazing. I'm so lucky and blessed to have all my family and friends so close to me and to be able to play here.”
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