Monday, 27 March 2023

International Volleyball

Holly McPeak, three-time Olympian, is always doing the work

Holly McPeak, three-time Olympian, is always doing the work

HERMOSA BEACH, Calif. — There is no rattling Holly McPeak, though you’re welcome to try.

Tim Hovland sure did.

“Hey, Holly,” he’d crow from his court at Marine Street, when McPeak would show up around 10:30 or 11 a.m., late for her on a summer day back then. “Go grab me a Mountain Dew and a Snickers.” Then his attention would return to the victims on his own court, and his mouth would begin assaulting someone else. Not that McPeak would be bothered by in the least.

Go get your own Mountain Dew and Snickers, Hov.

McPeak was there to play, although play isn’t quite the right word. Dominate. Improve. Learn at a rate that equaled, even surpassed, those of the soon-to-be-legends by which she was surrounded. There weren’t many women role models in the sport then. She loved watching Jim Menges, loved how his eyes would bulge with intensity. Loved seeing the competitive furnaces that burned in Sinjin Smith and Randy Stoklos and Hovland and Menges and Ron Von Hagen and all of the men who would provide the foundation for the sport.

It’s no wonder that she became a part of that foundation herself.

She’s 53 now, McPeak. A woman who values, above all else, her role as a mother. Her 72 wins still rank fourth all-time for women. Her Olympic bronze in 2004, in Athens, isn’t even the accomplishment of which she’s most proud. No, that belongs to the act of simply qualifying with Misty May-Treanor for the 2000 Games in Sydney.

They were underdogs to qualify in those Games. You’ll find that’s a consistent narrative throughout McPeak’s life, that of the underdog.

“It always felt like I was being pushed out,” she said on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter.

There were times — well, maybe only one time — where McPeak actually was pushed out. In 1987, setting for the University of California, McPeak set her way to being named the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, leading the Bears to their first winning record in four years. But Dave DeGroot replaced Marlene Piper as the head coach, and the setter and coach didn’t see eye to eye on much.

“They bumped heads because Holly is definitely a competitor. She’s not one to lose,” Lisa Arce, a teammate of McPeak’s who would be named to the All-Decade team, told the Los Angeles Times. “She always plays to win, whether it’s a drill, a scrimmage or a game.”

And if McPeak…

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