Ever since Briana Holman first stepped onto LSU’s campus, she’s been put on a pedestal.
The Tigers’ standout middle blocker came to Baton Rouge on nearly every “top recruits” list in collegiate volleyball. She was 2012 All-Texas Team in high school, and before she ever played a point at LSU, coach Fran Flory said “she will become one of the greatest here.”
That was only the beginning.
In her first season at LSU, the DeSoto, Texas, native became the only freshman in program history to earn American Volleyball Coaches Association’s All-American team honorable mention, AVCA South Regional Freshman of the Year and AVCA All-South Region honors.
She was also the third Tiger to hold spots on both the All-Southeastern Conference and All-SEC Freshman teams in the same season.
Now, the air is beginning to thin up on the pedestal.
“At first it was kind of messing with my head, because everyone has me on this kind of pedestal based on the season I had last year,” Holman said. “I feel like I not only have to meet what I did last year, but exceed it.”
If Holman feels she has to exceed last year’s performance, she didn’t make it easy on herself, becoming the eighth player in SEC history to surpass the 200-block mark and only the sixth freshman to lead the conference in blocks per set. She led the nation in blocks per set for freshmen and was No. 5 overall with 1.54.
Holman’s 200 blocks is also third-highest in SEC history during the rally-scoring era (2001) and is the first Tiger to reach the double-century mark in the same time span.
“It was a little overwhelming at first because I didn’t know what I was capable of,” Holman said. “I had only played club for four years, so I was still really inexperienced … I had no idea what the college speed would be like and everything was coming at me so fast.”
Senior setter Malorie Pardo said she’s seen a noticeable change in Holman’s demeanor and play coming into this season, describing Holman as having a “want to win.”
Holman credited her stint with the USA Collegiate National Team in China this summer as a primary factor in her off-season development.
Holman trained at the University of SouthernCalifornia before traveling to China for a 10-day tour in June, where her team finished second in the tournament. Holman started most of the six games and recorded more than 30 kills.
“It’s a totally different world over there.” Holman said. “It’s a total different style of play. It’s a lot faster. … Since I’ve been back, our offense has been a lot slower.”
Holman said she’s better equipped to handle the pressures of being the star this year, with life on and off the court slowing down for the 19-year-old.
The pedestal of expectations continues to rise with each match for Holman, who enters this season on the preseason All-SEC Team, but the main focus heading into her sophomore season is to keep her footing on the rising mount.
“A lot of people say that after you have a freshman breakout season like she did, you have a sophomore slump,” Flory said. “But the change in Briana Holman and the amount of effort that she has put in to not being a great volleyball player, necessarily, but being a great teammate means that she is going to have another special season. I have no doubt about it.”