Oct. 9, 2003
By David Siegal
CARBONDALE, Ill. - The 2003 version of Saluki Volleyball has seen the downward curve on a roller-coaster season as of late, though they may have gone upward with a win over Tennessee-Martin on Tuesday night. This doesn't mean that all performances need to follow the record.
One of the eleven freshman that has been impressive has been setter Holly Marita. The Pleasant Prairie, Wisc. native has thrived in being entrusted as the leader of the Saluki attack, posting 619 assists and 145 digs as of Tuesday. Marita, though, isn't fazed by her leadership role. "I think age doesn't have anything to do with leadership. Normally, I've been a leader and being a setter, I'm in a leadership role, so therefore it just comes naturally," Marita says.
Going into the season, there was a competitive, yet friendly, battle with fellow freshman, Monica Laird for the starting setter position. Laird notes she tries to push Marita hard in practice because, "I feel that's only going to make her and me better. It's a healthy competition to have. I just try to help her if I see things on the court or if I see we have a hot player at the time."
Marita says she chose SIU because of the location. "It's five hours away from home so my parents can still come but it's far enough so I can't go home whenever I want. I think that gives students a lot of independence. And I chose SIU because of Sonya (Head Coach Sonya Locke). If Marita does get homesick, she can turn to former club teammate and fellow freshman Ashley Saverine for support. "I think it was nice having somebody I knew on the team. If I get frustrated, I can go to her, let everything out, and not feel uncomfortable because I've known her for three years," Marita says of her fellow Wisconsin native.
In Wisconsin, Marita experienced post-season success while at Kenosha Tremper High, reaching as far as the regional finals, plus the finals at the 2002 USA Volleyball 17-under open division with her Milwaukee Sting club. Despite the standings, Marita doesn't think success is far away for SIU. "If at the end of our season, we make strides just toward our goals, I think that next season, we'll come out with a year of experience and I think we can go very far," she implies.
While she is garnering achievements, Marita hasn't been immune to the Dawgs frustrations. "It's been very frustrating. Sometimes we don't bring our intensity on the court. We play our C game when we have to play our A+ game because we are younger and we're not as experienced, so we have to reach higher and dig more balls than the other team."
As expected of a leader, Marita is self-motivated, "I don't need somebody on my back all the time to make me produce. The hardest person on me is myself." She is passing that motivation on her teammates. "I think a lot of times as a leader, I have to demand things from other people. I have to demand, 'You guys have to pass the ball, you have to do this,' and they say the same things to me to keep my intensity up. So I think if we demand things from each other, everything will be good."
Marita has already found a comfort zone here at Davies Gym. "I like the atmosphere, playing at Davies Gym, even though it's smaller than the other gyms we played in, but I like that everything's more personal here."
She has already found a place in Locke's system as well. "What we did in recruiting was trying to find somebody capable of running the team at this level. I think that Holly's gotten used to our offense, which is a plus, and improvement-wise, we want her to be more consistent. We want her to run more quick-set, which I expect will be better this week," added Locke.
The last freshman to start at setter was Debbie Barr, who holds the SIU record in assists and is third in MVC history. She is the only volleyball player who has her number (#5) in the rafters at Davies Gym. Holly Marita may likely prove that freshman can make vital contributions and maybe, her number (#3) will hang alongside Barr's as well.