COLD SPRING — There was a time early in her tenure on the Rocori varsity volleyball team when Eleanor Holthaus wasn’t so sure she belonged.
It came as an eighth-grader, when the now-sophomore setter found herself thrust into a starting role at a young age.
“There were times I’d break down mentally out there,” Holthaus recalls. “There were times I thought I wasn’t good enough. Everything was kind of intimidating.”
Those days, however, have long disappeared.
“I’m a lot stronger both physically and mentally now,” she said. “I have a lot more confidence because I’ve done it before. Experience has really helped.”
That was proven this season when Holthaus recorded 507 kills and 388 set assists while helping lead the Spartans to a 30-3 finish and a berth in the Class 2A state semifinals.
Her efforts earned her a spot on the All-State first team and the all-state tournament team.
They are also why she has been named the 2015 Times All-Area Player of the Year.
“Age-wise, she’s still young, but she’s already a varsity veteran,” said Rocori coach Ted Faber, whose team finished with the best record in school history. “She’s played a lot of volleyball for us and it shows.”
Holthaus is joined on the All-Area team by senior teammate Abby Templin, who was lost for the season to a knee injury in a win over Zimmerman in the first round of the section playoffs.
That forced Holthaus into even more of a dominant role in the Spartans’ 6-2 attack.
And she responded, coming up with 13 kills, three blocks and an ace serve in a 3-2 victory over Sauk Centre in the Section 6-2A title game that sent Rocori back to the state tournament for the second straight year.
“I was feeling a lot of different emotions when Abby got hurt,” Holthaus said. “It was hard because she’s such a team leader. But I knew I had to step up for my teammates. I was one of the people who had to be a leader and let everyone know we were going to be OK.”
Rounding out the All-Area team are Sauk Centre senior middle hitter Rebecca Weir and junior setter Jill Klaphake, Albany junior outside hitter Erin Navratil, St. Cloud Cathedral junior setter Morgan Prom and Sauk Rapids senior outside hitter Kyra Harvey.
But the group is led by Holthaus. who still has two years left in her high school career.
“That’s the best part,” Faber said. “I’m sure there are coaches out there wondering if she’s a senior already. We’re really glad we’re getting her back.”
Holthaus, whose sister Morgan also starts for Rocori, is a member of the Spartans’ girls basketball team, which will keep her occupied this winter. Then it will be on to Junior Olympic volleyball before returning next fall to a team that will bring back the bulk of the players who were on the court in the state tournament.
“It’s going to be exciting,” Holthaus said. “I think the future looks really bright for us.”
Follow Frank Rajkowski on Twitter at @rajko1973 or like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sctimesfrank .
TIMES’ ALL-AREA LINEUP:
MONDAY, Nov. 23: Girls tennis
TUESDAY, Nov. 24: Girls soccer
WEDNESDAY, Nov. 25: Boys soccer
THURSDAY, Nov. 26: Girls cross country
FRIDAY, Nov. 27: Boys cross country
SATURDAY, Nov. 28: Volleyball
SUNDAY, Nov. 29: Football
MONDAY, Nov. 30: Girls swimming and diving
Times’ volleyball players of the year
2015 — Eleanor Holthaus, Rocori
2014 – Morgan Koshiol, Rocori (Bemidji State)
2013 – Briana Schmiesing, Melrose (St. Benedict)
2012 – Macy Weller, Sauk Centre (St. Cloud State)
2011 – Macy Weller, Sauk Centre (St. Cloud State)
2010 – Kelsey Stommes, Rocori (Mississippi State)
2009 – Jordan Hansen, Rocori (St. Cloud State)
2008 – Anna Zyvoloski, St. Cloud Cathedral (St. Scholastica)
2007 – Anna Zyvoloski, St. Cloud Cathedral (St. Scholastica)
2006 – Casey Uran, Sartell (Southwest Minnesota State)
2005 – Katie Schlangen, Sartell (St. Benedict)
2004 – Kristen Hille, Sauk Rapids (North Dakota State)
2003 – Kari Wolford, Albany (Minnesota-Duluth)
2002 – Vicky Braegelmann, Albany (Minnesota-Duluth)
2001 – Vicky Braegelmann, Albany (Minnesota-Duluth)
2000 – Jenna Maki, Annandale (Minnesota-Morris)
1999 – Jenny Brenden, Sauk Rapids (Penn State basketball)
1998 – Jenny Brenden, Sauk Rapids (Penn State basketball)
1997 – Tiffany Donnell, Sauk Rapids (St. Cloud State) and Julie Engler, Sauk Rapids
1996 – Tiffany Donnell, Sauk Rapids (St. Cloud State)
1995 – Sheila Gross, Pierz
1994 – Krista Zaczkowski, Sauk Centre
1993 – Molly Travers, Sauk Rapids
1992 – Corrinne Lundell, Princeton
1991 – Lori Baynes, Foley
1990 – Teri Gwost, Little Falls
1989 – Tina Dahl, Annandale
1988 – Toni Neils, Sauk Rapids
1987 – Class AA: Toni Neils, Sauk Rapids; Class A: Michelle Brown, Swanville
1986 – Class AA: Shelly Held, Sauk Rapids; Class A: Amy Hagen, St. Cloud Cathedral
1985 – Class AA: Niki Denne, St. Cloud Tech; Class A: Tamy Wirth, Kimball
1984 – Class AA: Julie Eisenschenk, Rocori; Class A: Geralyn Gruber, Belgrade
1983 – Class AA: Anne Bell, Sr., St. Cloud Tech; Class A: Jennifer Barber, Swanville