Central Michigan serves the ball, a player for Ball State gets a dig, redshirt sophomore setter Esther Grussing sets the ball, and the equivalent of thunder roars through a silent Worthen Arena.
That sound is senior outside hitter Kia Holder hitting the ball over the net, followed by the few fans in the arena cheering as she gets the kill.
This was a repeating occurrence on senior weekend, as Holder played her last two matches at Worthen Arena. Women’s volleyball (8-10 MAC) split its weekend series against the Chippewas (10-9 MAC), winning Friday night 3-2 and losing 3-1 Saturday afternoon.
Holder led the Cardinals with 18 kills in the first match and 11 in the second. Beyond the matches themselves, head coach Kelli Miller Phillips is proud of who Holder is as a worker and what she has brought to the Cardinals.
“It is always nice to have players like Kia [Holder],” Miller Phillips said. “She is someone that gives her all every day. She is just a hard worker. Not just when it comes to volleyball but off of the court too. She is someone that is relentless. There is never a time where I have to beg her. She is a role model for how to work hard.”
Holder said she is blessed to have had such a successful run with the Cardinals but is still focused on finishing out the final three games of her career with a shot at the Mid-American Conference Tournament.
“Not everyone gets the same opportunity as me,” Holder said. “I am very blessed to be in the position that I am in. I am very blessed to play this game at this level and on this team. I am blessed for all of the girls I have played with in the past and that are on this team.”
Not only is Holder a senior, but she is the only one on the team. She knows her role, and while she said she doesn’t look at herself as above anyone, she knows people are always watching, and she embraces being a leader.
“I have always held myself to a high standard, knowing there are always people watching me,” Holder said. “That is kind of what my mom has told me growing up. There are always eyes watching me. There are always people above you looking at you. I hold myself to a standard to be that person for those people.”
Her teammate, Grussing, who had 44 assists and a career-high 15 digs in Friday’s win against the Chippewas, echoed what Miller Phillips said about Holder and her impact on Ball State.
“She means a lot,” Grussing said. “Her playing great, especially on senior weekend, has to be a great feeling for her, and it was a great feeling for the team as well.”
Miller Phillips said she has seen the impact Holder has had on the freshmen since they arrived to the program. She said Holder has not only had an impact on the court but off as well.
“She is sincere,” Miller Phillips said. “She is a leader for [younger players]. She has been since they arrived on campus. It is hard being a senior when we have a super young team. I just think she is just genuine to them. She has not separated herself of being a senior. She is just one of the team members.”
While Holder said there was no extra motivation for her final games at Worthen Arena, Miller Phillips said she knows how special it was for her to represent Ball State one last time at home.
“It is one of those things that is hard to describe until you are in that moment,” Miller Phillips said. “It is one of those things where Kia [Holder] is such a competitor and plays with such passion. It is special when you know you are playing and representing Ball State for the last time.”
The Cardinals travel to Miami (Ohio) to play the Redhawks on March 23 at 7 p.m.