Claire Holman signs with Hope

Duncan MacLean • Apr 21, 2017 at 7:30 AM

The most recent Grand Haven volleyball senior signed her letter on intent to play in college Thursday, making this year’s graduating class 8-for-8 on continuing their careers at the NCAA level.

Claire Holman and her cousin, Grand Haven basketball standout Zac Holman, had a joint signing ceremony Thursday as Claire announced the beginning of her volleyball career at Hope College and Zac confirmed his basketball career at Wheaton.

Claire and the rest of her senior class helped the Bucs volleyball team reach the regional finals this fall, where they fell to Rockford in a fifth set after going down 2-0 and mounting an emotional comeback.

The bitter end may have served as motivation for the super class to extend their careers, as all eight have signed to play in college.

“It is a testament to all the work and time they put in the gym and the tournament time, and the parents traveling. We are just a piece of that and are very fortunate to have been part of their journey” Grand Haven head coach Aaron Smaka said.

“It is great to see them get to the point where they love the game and want to play it at the next level.”

That next level, for Holman, is as big a stage as Division III has to offer, as she will look to contribute to one of the premiere volleyball programs in the country.

The Flying Dutch most recently were bounced in the first round of the NCAA tournament by Elmhurst, but have routinely made a deep run in the tournament in recent years, capturing a Division III NCAA national championship in 2014.

Coach Smaka is confident the young star can make an impact for Hope with her athleticism and broad skills, right away.

“Her speed and athleticism. She is really starting to expand her game in playing multiple positions,” he said. “She can hit the pin, she can hit in the middle, and she can be very versatile. Her backcourt game has come a long way, I think she can play six rotations.”

While she may be ready and excited to contribute on the national stage, the championship culture was not the only thing to attract Holman to Hope’s program.

“I really like their coach, Becky (Schmidt) is a great woman. I’ve heard a lot of good things about their program,” she said. “All the girls are really close knit, I thought that was awesome and it made me feel comfortable there.”

Like many Hope students, there is also a family connection to the small liberal arts school. Holman’s parents both attended the college, with her father tearing up the Civic Center as a member of the basketball team. She also has a stepbrother and cousin already roaming the pine grove at Hope, who offered insight concerning the flip side of being a student-athlete.

“They said that the academics were awesome, they said their teachers are all really personable with them and they really like their classes,” Holman said. “I thought that was awesome.”

The family history also stoked the fire in what will become the most important rivalry Holman will be a part of, and one of the most storied in the country.

“Calvin wanted her to come, too,” her father said. “But, she knew the place, she knew the gym, we always brought her there as a kid. She kind of grew up wearing orange, and she chose the Orange.”

The Calvin College Knights, Hope’s arch-MIAA rival, are coming off their third national championship run in the past seven years, despite losing to the Dutch in the MIAA Conference tournament title game prior to the 2016 NCAA tournament.

With family support, a rival’s motivation, and compassionate coaches, professors and teammates, the sky is the limit for this young Buccaneer-gone Dutch.

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