Entering her third season at UTEP, Holly Watts brings 20 years of Division I coaching experience, including lengthy stints at Arkansas (1996-2008) and Florida State (2008-13), where she worked with head coach Chris Poole. Together Poole and Watts were instrumental in producing thirteen 20-win seasons in 17 years, with 13 NCAA Tournament appearances during that span.
She was named UTEP’s head volleyball coach on July 5, 2013.
In her second season as head coach, Watts guided the team to a season of growth. UTEP showed improvement in its digs (15.19 per set) and blocking (2.15 per set) performance at the end of the 2014 campaign.
The Miners recorded 1,166 kills with an average 11 kills per set under the direction of Watts. The squad finished with 1,077 assists, 101 serving aces, and 144 receptions, and 1,494.5 points.
Watts coached true freshman Coline Coessens to a breakout season in 2014. The outside hitter participated in 95 sets, making 26 starts. She led the team with 279 kills, 29 receptions and 325 points. The all-around competitor finished second on the squad in serving aces (19) and fourth in digs (224).
Coessens tallied nine double-double performances and registered 13 matches where she led the Miners in kills.
Under the direction of Watts, the outside hitter was named to the Conference USA All-Freshman team, becoming the first Miner to earn a spot since 2010. It was also the first All-Freshman honor in Watts’s tenure.
Watts also guided sophomore Lindsey Larson from Humboldt, Saskatchewan, Canada to success on and off the court.
On the court, Larson participated in 103 sets and made starts in 28 contests. She ranked ninth in Conference USA and first on the squad with 920 assists. Larson recorded a team-high 11 double-double performances, including a 55 assists and 10 dig performance in a victory versus FIU (11/7).
Larson led the Miners by registering 16 matches with 30 or more assists. The setter finished second in digs (227) and third in blocks (72).
Off the court, the sophomore also performed up to the standards of Watts. Larson is a regular member on the UTEP’s Dean List sporting a 3.87 GPA in civil engineering.
Larson is also a three-time Conference USA Commissioner’s Academic Medalist and has appeared on the Commissioner’s Honor Roll (2012-2014). The well-rounded sophomore topped off the season by being honored to the 2014 Conference USA All-Academic volleyball team.
In her first season with the Orange and Blue, Watts led the Miners to a 9-4 home record and a bid to the Conference USA Championships.
She guided middle blocker Xitlali Herrera to AVCA Division I All-America, AVCA All-Southwest Region first team and All-Conference USA first team honors.
Herrera was the only C-USA middle blocker to play all six rotations. The senior ranked 23rd nationally, fourth in C-USA and first on the team in kills with 465 including a career high 27 against Tulsa (11/15) and Southern Miss (11/19). The Juarez, Mexico native tallied 29 double-digit kill performances in her last season with the Miners. She rates fourth all-time in program history with 1,182 kills.
Herrera also ranked 14th in the nation, third in C-USA and first on the team in points, totaling 5.11 per set and was named C-USA Offensive Athlete of the Week after leading the team to a 3-0 victory over the Rice Owls with a match-high 12 kills, only one error and a .611 hitting percentage. The middle blocker topped off her career with three All-Tournament selections.
A native of Devine, Texas, Watts played at Texas from 1989-93 and was elected the team’s Most Valuable Player in 1993. The Longhorns were consistently ranked in the nation’s top-20 over the course of Watts’ collegiate career, including number one her senior season, and won five conference titles, including during her redshirt year of 1989. The team advanced to the NCAA Championship Regional Finals three times and was a regional semifinalist twice. A two-time team captain, Watts garnered All-Southwest Conference honors and was a member of the All-South Region Team her senior year. She won a silver medal as a member of the West Team at the U.S. Olympic Festival in 1990. Watts also played one season for the Texas basketball team (1993-94), averaging 15.4 minutes, 7.5 points, and 5.6 rebounds, with a .593 field goal percentage. Her efforts helped the Longhorns to an SWC title and top-25 ranking.
She began her coaching career at the University of Texas at Arlington (1994-96), while also founding and coaching the Texas Impact Volleyball Club team during that time. Watts moved on to Arkansas in 1996. The next 12 years (1996-2007) saw the Lady Razorbacks fashion a 272-129 mark, including 138-56 in the Southeastern Conference. Arkansas made NCAA Tournament appearances in 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006. The Lady Razorbacks were SEC Tournament champions in 1997, tournament runner-up in 2002 and 2003, and claimed nine SEC Western Division titles.
Watts’s specific responsibilities at Arkansas included coaching the middle blockers, an assignment that produced the first two All-Americans (Jessica Field, Kim Storey) in program history as well as an honorable mention All-American (Sara Kincaid). She also founded the Ozark Juniors Volleyball Club team while in Fayetteville.
Since accompanying coach Poole to Florida State in 2008, Watts was a part of a staff that compiled a 130-34 record, including 80-20 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. In Poole’s first season (2008), Florida State registered its first 20-win campaign (21-9) in six years. A year later, the Seminoles captured their first ACC regular season title. They were also ACC champs in 2011 and 2012. The 2009 campaign resulted in 31 victories, including a near-perfect (19-1) league mark. Florida State played in the NCAA Tournament each of Watts’ last four seasons (2009-12), reaching the national semifinals in 2011.
Florida State’s other accomplishments over the last five years with Watts included a no. 7 final national ranking (2011), a 27-match home winning streak, a second team All-American (Jekaterina Stepanova) in 2011, a third team All-American and ACC Player of the Year (Ashley Neff) in 2012, and numerous victories over top-25 opponents. Florida State, USC and Western Kentucky were the only programs in the country to compile 28 wins or more in 2011 and 2012.
As the Seminoles’ middle blockers coach, Watts groomed a second team All-American (Brianna Barry), a third team All-American (Neff) and two honorable mention All-Americans (Jordana Price and Sareea Freeman). Barry was the 2009 ACC Player of the Year, and Freeman ranked second nationally in hitting percentage (.438) in 2012. In 2011, Watts was named the AVCA Assistant Coach of the Year after Florida State rated first in the ACC and seventh in the country in blocks per set (2.98). Neff was the national leader in total blocks (197) that year.
Watts was invited to assist with the U.S. National Team for several weeks in the summer of 1998, working with the country’s elite volleyball players and then-head coach Mick Haley.
She earned her degree in Kinesiology from Texas in 1994. She graduated in the top five percent of her class at Devine High School (1989) and served as National Honor Society president as a senior. Her prep athletic accomplishments included being tabbed the 1988 San Antonio Express News Sportswoman of the Year. A three-sport star, Watts (formerly Holly Graham) was selected to numerous All-State volleyball and basketball teams and also won a silver medal in the shot put at the state track and field meet in 1988.
Watts led her volleyball high school team to two State Championships in 1987 and 1988 while making it to the semifinals in 1986. Her talent also guided the basketball team to the state semifinals in 1986-87 and 1988-1989.
She and her husband, John Watts, have two sons, Jeremiah and Jared.
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