Millard North coach Lindsay Peterson had high expectations for Paige Holdsworth this season.
The senior has delivered, emerging as perhaps the most versatile player for the top-ranked Mustangs.
Holdsworth is second on the team in kills (237) but that’s just part of the story. She also is one of Millard North’s top defensive players (324 digs) and has the team’s top serve-receive percentage.
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She’s done it all for the Mustangs, which is something she’s been building toward since her freshman year, when she swung between junior varsity and varsity.
“I was trying to learn as much as I could back then,” Holdsworth said. “I knew that I was just going to need to be patient.”
She played mostly a utility role as a sophomore, when Millard North won its second state title and first since 1987. Holdsworth contributed more last year with 216 digs and 173 kills for the Class A runners-up.
Peterson said Holdsworth wanted to play an even bigger role as a senior, and has worked hard to become a six-rotation player. She rarely comes out of a match and is part of a hard-hitting front line that has helped the Mustangs go 35-2.
“Paige is a kid who could have gotten frustrated,” the coach said. “But she’s stayed with it and worked hard to become the player she is today.”
Peterson said she got a sense of Holdsworth’s drive to improve during club season two years ago, when she had a chance to move up from the twos — the equivalent of the junior varsity — to the ones.
“She stayed with the twos because she knew it would make her a better player in the long run,” the coach said. “There were things she still wanted to work on, and staying put was the best way to do that.”
An example of her versatility came during a mid-October home match against ranked opponent Gretna. After the Mustangs lost the first two sets, Peterson thought she needed to shake things up.
Holdsworth put on the libero jersey and moved to the back row while her front-row spot was taken by 6-foot-1 Molly Plahn.
“It wasn’t a total surprise because coach had moved (me) before,” Holdsworth said. “It makes me feel good to know she has that much confidence in me to play front row or back.”
The strategy paid off. Millard North rallied to win the next three sets and the match.
“Paige did a great job that night,” Peterson said. “She made the move with no hesitation and I think the whole team responded.”
While some of her senior teammates will leave Omaha to play following graduation — the University of Iowa, Northwest Missouri State, Sioux Falls University — Holdsworth will stay closer to home. She’ll compete for Bellevue University.
“I’m kind of a homebody,” she said. “It’ll be nice playing so close to my family.”
Holdsworth added that it hasn’t really sunk in yet that the upcoming state tournament will be the last varsity volleyball action of her career. She is one of seven seniors, and has been playing with some, including middle hitter Emmy Grant, for a long time.
“Emmy and I have played together for eight or nine years,” she said. “It’s going to be tough next year, but I know that we all have big things ahead of us in the future.”
The future for Holdsworth includes club volleyball. She said there’s also a chance she might finish her Millard North varsity career playing another sport in the spring.
“The soccer team is looking for a goalie,” she said. “I haven’t played the sport in four years so I’m still deciding what I’m going to do.”
Holdsworth is far more decisive about her immediate future.
“We’re all excited about going back to the state tournament,” she said. “We have a really tight bond on this team so hopefully we can pull together and win this title.”