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Nov. 29th Outstanding Student Athlete: Berrien Springs' Holly Toliver

By Carl Deffenbaugh
Published On: Dec 24 2013 05:13:35 PM CST
Updated On: Aug 25 2014 01:51:36 PM CDT

Last week, Berrien Springs volleyball standout Holly Toliver led the Shamrocks to the state quarterfinals, before bowing out two wins shy of playing for a state title. It marked the end of a magnificent era in Berrien Springs. But as Carl Deffenbaugh tells us, Toliver's career is a long way from over.

Berrien Springs, Mich. -

Driven doesn't begin to describe it. Holly Toliver is that rare form of elite athlete. Physically gifted, sure, but separated from her peers even more by what's inside.

"I'll hit a ball that will look amazing to the stands, and you'll just see me walk back mad," Toliver says. "They're just like, 'What's wrong?' I'm like, 'It wasn't good enough. It's not good enough. I need to be better. It's not good enough yet.'"

Few were ever better than Toliver throughout her illustrious career at Berrien Springs. A finalist for the Miss Volleyball award in Michigan, she led the Shamrocks to back-to-back state quarterfinal appearances.

For some perspective, listen to Jim Bermingham, who has numerous state championships as the head coach at Berrien Springs.

"I've had kids that have been Division I All-Americans, and even one that was an alternate on the Olympic team," said Bermingham. "[Toliver] is by far, exiting high school, the best kid I've ever coached."

It's not hyperbole, just a frank assessment of a once-in-a-generation player. At 6'2, she towers above her teammates. But Bermingham says Toliver is the best passer, setter and server on the team.

"She's a freak, and in this case, freak is a wonderful compliment," Bermingham explains, using a basketball analogy. "She's that kind of kid that has it all. What's a 6'2 female? Like a 6'8, 6'9 male who would be your best guard. Magic Johnson, I guess."

That's an appropriate comparison, since two weeks ago Toliver committed to play at Magic's alma mater, Michigan State. She kept her recruitment to herself, though her Dad, who was also a Spartan, appreciated her final decision.

"He was jumping up and down. He was calling family," Toliver remembers.

A family atmosphere was what sold her on Michigan State, including meetings with men's basketball coaching icon Tom Izzo as well as her future teammates.

"The recruits coming in are just like sisters already," says Toliver. "And I haven't even played with them yet."

That will happen soon enough. When her inner drive takes her to Division I, and who knows how far beyond.