It was a great day for any Nebraska player, coach or fan as they won the National Championship in four sets over Florida on Saturday night. No one had as good of a day as Nebraska’s senior middle blocker Briana Holman though, who became the first person in her family to graduate college prior to winning the title.
“It feels amazing. I don’t know. It’s a long journey to get to this point, and I’m the first in my immediate family to graduate from college,” Holman said as she trailed off in a choked up manner.
It wasn’t an easy path to her degree and winning a title on the court with Nebraska, but Holman worked through to accomplish both.
Her journey was long, as the 6’1″ middle blocker from DeSoto, Texas left Cedar Hill High School to attend LSU. She became the first freshman in program history to earn AVCA All-America Honorable Mention honors and only improved as a sophomore when she was a First-Team All-American after averaging 3.94 kills and 1.47 blocks per set. That’s when the road got a bit rocky.
That road did feature a bright future and a light at the end of the tunnel, but it was a long one to come as Holman decided to transfer and would have to sit out a year at Nebraska. Not just that, but she was faced with a tough decision of paying her way to go to Nebraska or getting a scholarship at Penn State.
“Briana, when she left LSU and transferred to Nebraska, and she documented this, she transferred mid-year,” Nebraska head coach John Cook said. “Penn State had a scholarship and we did not at the mid-year. So Briana took out a loan to pay her way to come to Nebraska. I didn’t think we’d be able to get her. But she saw something and her family saw something in Nebraska of what she needed and the support that she would need.”
Cook also added that the year she had to sit was really hard for her. She was still happy to be with the team though as someone who would make in impact in practice for another National Championship bunch. Finally, in 2016 she was eligible to play for Nebraska but fell short in the Final Four. Now, in 2017, she helped her squad breakthrough back to a National Title.
“In 2015, I was really excited, especially because I had just gotten here,” Holman said. “But it definitely was special this year just because we’d worked so hard this past couple years, and we got so close last year.”
Beyond her wait to make an impact on a contender at the highest level, Holman’s trip to graduating was not an easy one. Besides the time she had to commit on the court, she majored in Criminology & Criminal Justice, a very difficult and time-consuming degree to earn.
“She has worked to become a great student. She’s had a very tough major, criminal justice, which is not an easy major at Nebraska,” Cook said. “To see her graduate today, she’s got a very good grade point average, and for her to be able to win this National Championship… The other thing, we can say it’s not a big deal, but she was an honorable mention All-American, and she didn’t even make all-conference. You look at her stats against the best middles and you look at her stats in this NCAA tournament, and she had a heck of a tournament. So it’s very rewarding to see what she’s accomplished.”
Cook added it waas a very emotional moment for their team and her today. And it should be. Holman has been fantastic on the court for Nebraska and now has started a legacy in her family with being a college graduate – metaphorically, a National Championship in academics.
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