Freshman Holtz helps CC spikers to 2nd tourney title

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COLORADO SPRINGS – On a team laden with sophomore talent, rookie Abbe Holtze has wasted no time securing a spot in Colorado College's lineup.

Holtze, a freshman outside hitter from Manhattan Beach, Calif., earned tournament MVP honors while helping the Tigers to a pair of straight-set victories over Willamette University on Saturday that earned them another team title at the Molten Volleyball CC Classic at Reid Gym.

The scores were 25-15, 28-26, 25-17 in first-round action and 25-21, 25-22, 25-17 in the championship match.

"Abbe brings an all-around consistency as a freshman," head coach Rick said of Holtze, an all-tournament selection both weekends of her collegiate career so far. "She plays smart. A few of her errors in the second match today had a lot to do with fatigue, because she was taking a lot of swings. But she's still learning, and so advanced in her knowledge of the game, it's just fun to watch. At one point today, I remember looking at my assistants on the bench and saying 'That's a freshman making a senior play.'"

And, although the season is young, those kind of plays have paid off with big dividends.

On the road for its next 11 matches before hosting the annual Spike It Up Classic on Oct. 4 and 5, Colorado College is off to an 8-0 start after ushering in the 2013 campaign with two weekends at home.

Holtze was a model of near perfection in Saturday's early contest, hammering down 20 kills while committing only one error – that coming late in the first set. In the final two sets combined, including a .700 attack percentage in the third (7 for 10), she converted on 13 of 27 attempts to hit .487. She was .475 for the match and .344 for the afternoon, with 64 attempts in all, before joining sophomore outside hitter Courtney Birkett and sophomore setter Devon Lucero as all-tourney choices.

Willamette battled back from a 24-21 deficit in Set 2 of the early match to take a 25-24 lead before Swan called a timeout to settle down his squad, which capitlized on a subsequent service error by the Bearcats to pull even then won on a pair of timely service aces by Lucero. Sophomores Sophie Merrifield (26) and Emily Phillips (15) combined for 41 of CC's 66 digs in the match, with Phillips also recording 11 kills. Lucero finished with 42 assists to go with four services aces in all, both match highs. She added 33 assists in the nightcap, when Birkett and junior team captain Kristen Liberty provided 10 kills apiece, and junior middle hitter Randi Braak came off the bench to match Holtze's seven in just nine tries for a .778 success ratio.