Pole playing at higher level for Gators
Published: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, October 15, 2013 at 8:40 p.m.
Florida's Holly Pole is really digging her junior season.
She's also passing and serving at another level and has become a major player for a UF squad that is 17-1, unbeaten (6-0) in SEC play and ranked No. 2 in the nation heading into this weekend's road matches at Arkansas and No. 18 Missouri.
“Holly is right now not only playing the best volleyball of her career, but arguably with her best back-row combination of all the skills,” coach Mary Wise said. “What we mean by that is serving, passing and defense. She's grading out in all three areas at such a high level, and she gives us confidence in her ability to play any of the back-row positions.”
Pole is pleased.
“There are certain things that we work on in practice, just little word cues that have helped me out, especially in passing,” she said. “I've just been trying to focus on that, not only in practice but in the game, so that it's actually not just something I do in the gym but something that counts on Friday and Sunday as well.”
A two-time Ocala Star-Banner Player of the Year, Pole has transitioned into being a defensive specialist at UF.
She played in 60 sets (24 matches) as a freshman in 2011 before almost doubling her playing time last year, appearing in 108 sets (32 matches) and finishing her sophomore season with 26 aces and 218 digs, the third- and fourth-best team marks, respectively.
That upward trend is continuing. Pole has started the majority of UF's 18 matches this season and played in them all, with her 57 sets played tying for the team-high mark.
“It's definitely been competitive,” she said. “There are a number of defensive specialists on this team, and everybody including the pin hitters have taken big ownership of our defense, learning the system and taking pride in their role.
“My personal goals are just to improve as a player. I take pride in knowing our defensive system, so if I can get better at any little thing related to that, I'm happy.”
Pole is third on the team with 118 digs, highlighted by a season-high 11 digs in a 3-1 upset of then-No. 2 Stanford and 10 in a recent 3-0 sweep of No. 15 Kentucky. Her 2.07 digs per set is a career-high mark, as are her 19 assists.
In addition, Pole has made just four reception errors on 232 opponents' serves, an impressive .983 mark that is tops on the team (minimum 200 chances).
“When Holly is in the game, we feel pretty confident that we're either going to score points with her serve, that she's going to be a solid passer and we're going to be able to side out quickly, and then if somebody hits the ball in her area, she's going to make a play,” Wise said.
All in a day's work for this solid student-athlete, a two-time SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll member and former Ocala Vanguard standout who helped the Knights reach the state final four in both volleyball and basketball.
“I just try and focus on what's happening on the court,” Pole said. “I always wanted to come here and play here, so to be able to wear this uniform and go to the University of Florida and play volleyball is just a dream come true.”
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