Hoarse Kyra Holt named espnW player of week after Washington State's loud and clear message

Courtesy Washington State

Washington State's Kyra Holt hit the 1,000-kill, 1,000-dig milestone last week against Washington.

Kyra Holt found her voice on the volleyball court as a senior playing for Washington State.

Last weekend, she lost it, but not before leading her Cougars (12-2) to victories over two top-10 opponents in a three-day span.

Washington State debuted in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll at No. 17 on Monday, following wins over previously unbeaten Washington and UCLA. It was the Cougars' first win in Seattle since 2001 and first in Los Angeles since 1997.

Credit Holt, the espnW volleyball player of the week, for amassing 39 kills and 21 digs in the two matches. Those numbers make her the fifth player in Cougars history to reach 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs in a career.

Hoarse after Friday's win at the Huskies' gym, where a hearty contingent of Cougar fans turned out despite a five-hour trek, Holt said, "It's just awesome. I have no words."

Coach Jen Greeny touts Holt, an outside hitter, as an all-around threat who keeps opponents off-balance with her versatility.

"Teams focus on her offense, but she's a solid passer, a great server, and defensively, she does great things as well," Greeny said.

Greeny said Holt's leadership has been key in making the Cougars a factor in the Pac-12.

"She'll call her own timeouts and try to get her teammates to focus in practice," Greeny said. "She's also coachable in that you can get on her, and she'll take that feedback and make changes."

Holt was AVCA Pacific North Region Freshman of the Year in 2013 and All-Pac-12 first team last season. For the past two years, she has been a tri-captain for the Cougars.

"We have a lot of underclassmen, and we're finally figuring out how to play," said Holt, a mentor to the team's middle hitters in particular. "I've been letting them know it's OK to make a mistake, as long as you're trying your best."

In addition to Holt's weekend numbers, sophomore Claire Martin had 15 block assists and freshman Alexis Dirige had 43 digs in the two matches. Martin is the reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week. Holt picked up the conference's offensive honors.

"We didn't have a lot of middle threats last year," Holt said. "It makes my job a lot easier. I don't have to kill the ball every single time. I do get a lot of attacks, which I love, but having a middle attack like ours makes opponents respect our middle."

Washington State's victory over UCLA was especially significant because the Cougars had dropped 11 straight five-set matches, including one to Baylor on Sept. 17.

"Last year, we went to five sets with UCLA and Arizona State, and those were just heartbreakers," Holt said. "I knew going into the fifth we were not going to lose because I'm so sick of losing them."

Holt didn't start playing volleyball until she joined her best friend for tryouts in eighth grade. The longtime basketball player, whose father starred at UC Riverside before turning professional in Malta, planned to compete in both sports at Albany High near her hometown, Hercules, California. When she fainted in basketball practice as a freshman, Holt changed her mind.

"I had been dribbling since I learned how to walk and wanted to be like my dad," she said. "I wasn't eating properly and decided I didn't want to do both."

The human development major, who plans to become a high school teacher, is excited the Cougars are in the mix in a Pac-12 that boasts eight teams in the top 25. Washington at No. 7, Stanford at No. 9 and UCLA at No. 12 remain ranked ahead of Washington State.

"We definitely fly under the radar," Holt said. "When we have won, we'll hear it's because the other team played bad, and that's been frustrating."

Stanford, the nation's top blocking team, is next on the schedule, on Friday. Holt, well, let's just say she's excited.

"I want to play them tonight," she said Sunday. "We're ready."

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