Highschool Volleyball Player “Sets” the Bar High


Kiki Velasquez

High School Sophomore, Holly Hillman, standing tall in the Home of the Mayfield Cubs, hopes volleyball will set her up for college.

16-year old Holly Hillman is used to being the center of the volleyball court as the setter for both her school and club team. Living in San Marino, California Hillman, enjoys hanging out with her friends and doing carefree and fun activities like any other teenager but flips the switch to focus mode when devoting a large portion of her time to playing volleyball as well as being a successful student and sophomore class president. Her earliest experience in competitive sports began with swimming which took her to the Junior Olympics but, as she says, it did not ignite the same fire under her like volleyball does. Balancing her home life between her mom’s and dad’s separate homes has its disadvantages and she is determined not to let these hardships stop her from her ambitions, goals, and bold attitude in executing the activities she loves. 

Q: Was there a specific moment you started to love volleyball, and how was it introduced to you?

A: I loved it from the beginning compared to any other sport I’ve played. I’ve done it all, so I just loved having a team because for so long it was just myself, because it takes a group effort to win. My cousin played volleyball and now she plays at Yale and then my aunt and uncle are volleyball coaches. So I was kind of introduced to volleyball through them. That’s when my dad signed me up, then I really liked it. 

I was first a right side hitter because I am left-handed. I like being involved in pretty much every play so I had the chance to become a setter and I loved it way more than hitting.

Q: Have you overcome any injuries?

A: Oh, I’ve had so many injuries. I have had back problems and foot problems on the insides of my feet and I had to get arch support. Then I sprained my wrist and fingers. That’s pretty much it. I’ve pulled my hamstrings a few times and have gotten hit in the head, but it’s okay, it’s worth it.

Q: Was it scary going into high school expecting to make varsity as a freshman?

A: It was scary at first with the olders girls. I didn’t know if they were going to be like ‘Who’s this new girl?’ That fear always comes to mind, or ‘Is she going to take my spot?’ Playing time is not guaranteed, it’s earned. 

Q: What’s the best part of being on a team?

A: I would say relying on other people if you’re not performing your best you have other people that can pick you up and support you. It’s like a second family. You tell them everything going on in your life. It’s like a group of friends you’ll always have.

Q: What’s the hardest thing about setting?

A:  It’s pretty hard because first of all you’re the one running the offense and if the passes aren’t good if they’re off or short it’s not the passer’s fault, it’s your fault to get those up – which is sometimes frustrating because everyone has a job on the team to do. Basically all the mistakes get placed on the setter if it’s not a good hit. It is always being held accountable for mistakes. Sometimes being fearless is hard, if you see a girl on the other team and be like ‘Oh my god she hits so hard,’ you just have to go into it like, ‘Let’s go and get the job done.’ 

Q: How has this large commitment affected your mental health?

A: Sometimes I get really upset when I play if I’m not doing a good job at controlling a neutral face which can make my coaches frustrated with me. Balancing practice everyday especially with school volleyball, and my social life, and time for myself is hard. I want to do it all but I can’t so I have to pick and choose. I have six or seven travel tournaments and they are for three or four days so I have to miss school and get behind on my work. It’s a juggle trying to get it all done.

For me, the way my schedule is with my divorced parents and my volleyball schedule, I have to carry my stuff back and forth between houses. The days I don’t have volleyball my stuff will be at my dad’s when I’m at my mom’s, it’s a juggle trying to figure out how to get stuff places. 

Q: How does it feel that college is approaching, and with it, college recruiting?

A: Pressure. I want to perform a certain way and there’s not that much time so I have to start sending out stuff to coaches which is stressful. It’s a lot, especially when college coaches come to watch us play and what comes with that is the thought of like, ‘What if I’m not in (the court) when they’re watching?’ and you blow your chance. The goal for me is to play in college but we’ll see.

Q: Overall is it worth the struggle and hardships for this commitment?

A lot of times I get overwhelmed and I let myself cry but then I tell myself to get over it and force myself to work. That needs to be done so I have time cut out to focus on other things but I have never considered stopping. It’s just on top of playing, I have schoolwork that is hard to balance. For me, It’s worth whatever the messiness that comes with playing.