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Senior middle blocker named ACC Co-Player of the Week to make her one of three Seminoles to earn weekly honor on three occasions
Florida State is ranked sixth in the latest American Volleyball Coaches Association Poll
Defending ACC champions and NCAA national semifinal participants partake in intra-squad scrimmage on Aug. 18 at 4 p.m. in Tully Gym
Seminoles excel on the field, in the classroom and in the community in 2011-12.
Playing a vital role in the resurgence of Florida State volleyball has been associate head coach Holly Watts, who will be entering her sixth season at FSU.
As the team's middle blockers coach, Watts played a pivotal role in the success attained by Ashley Neff and Sareea Freeman in 2012. Neff became just the third student-athlete in program history to be a non-honorable mention All-American, earning third-team honors. She finished seventh nationally in blocks per set and 20th in hitting percentage while also earning ACC Player of the Year honors. As a team, Florida State finished 20th in blocks per set in the country.
Freeman's rise was just as dramatic under Watt's watch. Freeman finished second nationally in hitting percentage, earned honorable mention All-America honors and was named an all-conference player. In 2012, Freeman broke the school record for most career ACC Player of the Week honors when she earned three of her four awards in her senior season.
Watts had a historical campaign in which she collected the AVCA National Assistant Coach of the Year Award after making the Seminoles one of the nation's top blocking units in 2011. Having already improved FSU's block since arriving in Tallahassee in 2008, Watts helped raised the Seminoles' blocks-per-set average to 2.98 for the seventh-best mark in the nation as well as the best in the ACC.
Watts' impact on her student-athletes could be summed up in the significant rise of standout middle blocker Neff, who led the country with 197 total blocks and finished fifth with 1.55 blocks per set. Watts also helped mold middle blocker Freeman into a formidable presence, as she broke through with 1.25 blocks per set to finish 37th nationally. Altogether, FSU produced double-digit blocking totals in 21 of its 35 matches played, including an unprecedented 26 blocks at N.C. State on Oct. 9, 2011.
Simply put, it was what Watts taught that paved FSU to its best season in school history in 2011. The Seminoles' run to the NCAA National Semifinal was largely due to the team's ability to combat offensive attacks, which was shown on a national stage when FSU recorded 15 blocks in a victory over fifth-seeded Purdue in the Sweet 16 and 16 blocks against fourth-seeded Iowa State to advance to the Final Four in San Antonio.
After helping head coach Chris Poole build the University of Arkansas volleyball program into a consistent NCAA postseason team, Watts has done the same in Tallahassee as the Seminoles also finished with two of their best seasons in program history in 2009 and 2010.
In 2009, FSU earned its second regular-season Atlantic Coast Conference championship in school history and reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever. Watts helped coach a team that also set the school record for most wins in the ACC (19) and most conference wins in a row (16). FSU also garnered a No. 11 ranking in the entire country, which was also a program best until the 2011 squad ended with a No. 7 spot. In 2012, Florida State reached as high as No. 6 in the country before finishing 18th.
Watts' effective coaching style was key yet again for FSU in 2010, helping guide Visnja Djurdjevic and Stephanie Neville to stellar seasons while meshing in a talented blend of newcomers and transfers. The result was another trip to the NCAA Tournament for a unit that amassed a 22-11 overall record.
Although her duties have been many and varied, one of Watts' most critical jobs has been to coordinate all of the recruiting efforts including correspondence, evaluation, visits and tracking athletes at Florida State.
She is also in charge of scheduling the fall and spring travel for the team and coordinating many of the day-to-day activities in the office.
Prior to Florida State, Watts joined the Arkansas program in 1996. The Lady Razorbacks accomplished a 262-129 record, nine Southeastern Conference Western Division titles and nine NCAA Tournament appearances with Watts in the second chair. Her hard work and commitment to the program was rewarded at the conclusion of the 2002 season when she was promoted to associate head coach.
Just as she does now at Florida State, Watts served as the primary coach for the middle blockers and quick attack at Arkansas. Her blocking talents are evident as the Lady Razorbacks consistently ranked in the top of the SEC and the nation in blocking during her 12-year stint.
Watts' impact was immediate at Florida State in 2008 when the team finished sixth in the ACC with a 2.32 blocks-per-set average after finishing in 12th (last place) with only 1.96 blocks per game average in 2007. In 2009, the 'Noles finished second in the league in the category with a mark of 2.51 blocks per set, and ended in second yet again in 2010 with 2.42 blocks per set. Watts helped elevate the play of middle blockers Lauren Young and Freeman in creating one of the best blocking tandems in the ACC in 2010.
Watts coached the best blockers in Arkansas volleyball history, including All-Americans Jessica Field and Kim Storey along with Sara Kincaid, an honorable mention All-American, and many all-conference and all-district selections. In her first two seasons at FSU, she coached All-Americans Jordana Price and Brianna Barry, who also earned ACC Player of the Year honors in 2009.
Watts also played a vital role with the summer camps where she helped build Arkansas from ground level to averaging around 600 campers. At Florida State, she now plays an important role in drawing all talent levels to FSU in an effort to introduce volleyball to beginners and elite players alike.
While with the Lady Razorback program, Watts founded Ozark Juniors Volleyball Club, which played nationally and provided playing opportunities for all ages. Watts also served on the board for Ozark Juniors, which has continued to expand with each season.
Watts was invited to assist with the U.S. National Team for several weeks in the summer of 1998, working with the country's elite volleyball players and with then-head coach Mick Haley.
As an athlete, the former Holly Graham helped the University of Texas to national dominance and was the Lady Longhorns' MVP as a senior. An all-conference pick, she was an All-SWC and All-SWC Tournament selection as well as being named to the all-South region team in her final year. She went on to play basketball in her final year before graduating with a degree in Kinesiology from the University of Texas in 1994.
Watts, a Devine, Texas, native, began her coaching career while in college working with Haley at the University of Texas volleyball camps. Watts accepted the assistant coaching job at Texas-Arlington in 1994, a position she held until going to Arkansas in the spring of 1996.
Watts is married to John Watts and the couple has two sons, Jeremiah and Jared.