WASHINGTON TWP.| There are few positions in Porter County that come with as much pressure as playing libero at Washington Twp.
Stephanie Fadell set the standard for the position, nearly winning Porter County Conference Player of the Year honors in 2007 before giving way to two-time All-Conference honoree Sarah Lawson.
With Lawson playing at Purdue Calumet, Julee Kwiatkowski took over the position and finished second in Player of the Year voting behind teammate Vicki Flanders in 2011 before leaving to play at Purdue North Central.
Sitting behind Lawson and Kwiatkowski for two years, senior Emily Holcomb followed right in their footsteps last year and has the Senators on the brink of another conference championship and set for a run at sixth-straight sectional title.
“I’ve learned a lot from the players that came before me,” Holcomb said. “Sarah is the person that I learned from as a freshman. We still talk to each other today.”
Holcomb learned the game from former Washington Twp. coach Scott Campbell, but didn’t get her break in the starting lineup until Kevin Labaj took over the program prior to the start of last season.
“It was hard because Scott was the one that I learned from and he was my eighth grade coach as well,” Holcomb said. “Everything has been great with Kevin. He’s a good coach and he helps us out a lot, points out what we need to improve.”
Labaj hasn’t missed a beat in Campbell’s footsteps and part of that is because Holcomb hasn’t missed a beat in the footsteps from previous liberos.
“Emily brings great leadership to the back row,” Labaj said. “She leads that like it’s her own part of the court. She’s involved in every aspect of the game, in every play, whether the ball is hit to her or not.”
While she’d be happy to equal the accomplishments of the liberos before her and win another sectional title before departing to play in college, Holcomb has her eyes on something bigger.
The Senators won their first regional when Holcomb was a sophomore and with five seniors in the starting lineup this season, Holcomb believes they can get back again.
“Obviously we’d love to get past regionals and we have the goal of winning a state title,” Holcomb said. “Our team is very close and I believe we have the talent.”
However far the Senators go this season won’t stop Holcomb’s time in high school from coming to an end. While fans still talk of Fadell, Lawson and Kwiatkowski, Holcomb just hopes her work ethic leaves a lasting impression.
“It’s bittersweet and I’ll be sad to go,” Holcomb said. “I hope that I’ve set a good example. I want people to remember how much fun the game is and to remember to smile and not get down.”