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Winders' versatility takes her to nationals

June 29, 2013|By DANIEL KAUFFMAN | kauffman@herald-mail.com
  • Hollee Winders, a Smithsburg High School sophomore, makes a pass while playing for the MVSA 15U Riot club team earlier this year. Winders will travel with the Riot to play in the USA Girls National Volleyball Championships in Dallas.
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Hollee Winders will get to display her all-around volleyball skills on a national stage.

Winders, who won a Maryland Class 1A state title as a freshman on Smithsburg High School’s varsity team last fall, is a key player for the Montgomery Village Sports Association 15U Riot club team that earned a spot in the USA Girls National Volleyball Championships, being played in Dallas, which starts Monday.

“I’m just really excited,” Winders said. “This is the first time I’ve ever gone to nationals, and (Riot coach) Roger (Heald) has been talking about it a lot.”

Heald said Winders is “the only kid who can play all the time,” with her ability to play defense, set and hit.

“She doesn’t come out,” Heald said. “I’ve got a lot of kids who can pass well, a lot of kids who can hit well, but not a lot of kids who can also set. She’s more of a jack of all trades and one of the team captains. She brings a lot of leadership and stability, has a sense of humor and is a lot of fun.”

Winders primarily played as a setter in previous club and middle school seasons. However, Winders was moved to outside hitter by Leopards coach Rachel Brashear, where she made an impact with a 1.58 kills per set average in limited action.

“Smithsburg definitely gave me the opportunity to become a hitter,” Winders said. “Before, I was a setter and that’s all I had done. Coach Brashear saw I could hit and pulled it out of me, because I was scared to death of doing it. She had me play outside hitter and it was unbelievable, and it was a great experience going to states — one of the best ever.”

Winders said Heald and the Riot coaching staff have helped her expand her talents.

“Coach Heald put me in uncomfortable positions and has forced me to learn things and do things I didn’t think I could do, but I found out I can,” Winders said.

“She’s a very dependable player, very solid and she makes the plays she’s supposed to make,” Heald said. “She’s very coachable. She’s never missed a tournament.”

The Riot earned a berth in the American Division of the USA nationals by finishing third out of 90 teams in the Chesapeake Regional Volleyball Association’s 15U Open Regional tournament.

“We were really surprised,” Winders said. “When we went to regionals, it was tough competition there, and coming in third was a huge accomplishment for us.”

The American Division will feature 48 teams, and Winders knows the competition will be unlike anything she has faced.

“We accept that it’s going to be hard and we’re not going to win every game, but it will be a fun experience and it will humble us and we’ll grow from it,” Winders said.

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