Entering her fourth season at UTEP, Holly Watts brings 21 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 2015, Watts guided the team to a season of growth. UTEP showed improvement in its kills (11.4 per set), assists (10.6 per set), digs (16.81 per set) and blocking (2.35 per set) performance at the end of the campaign.
The Miners season totals included 1,385 kills, 1,288 assists, 107 service aces, 168 receptions, 2,034 digs, 284.5 blocks and 1,776.5 points.
Watts coached Coline Coessens to a breakout season in 2014. As a true freshman, she 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.
The outside hitter was named to the 2014 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.
As a sophomore in 2015, Coessens played in 21 matches but missed 11 due to a non-injury medical issue. However, she finished second on the team in kills (241) and fourth in digs (205). Coessens collected nine double-double performances on the season, including a season-best 22 kills and 10 digs versus Southeast Missouri St. (9/18/15). She also added 50 blocks (5s/45a) and six service aces.
Watts has also guided sophomore Lindsey Larson from Humboldt, Saskatchewan, Canada to success on and off the court.
In 2014, 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).
In 2015, Larson continued to be a true leader to the squad on the court as she served as team captain.
She trained with the Canada National Team during the summer before heading back to El Paso to prepare for the fall season.
Larson was the only Miner to start in all 32 matches and play in all 121 sets. The junior finished first on the team and eighth in Conference USA with 8.79 assists per set with a total of 1,064 assists on the season.
Larson had a team-best 35 service aces and ranked second on the team in digs (369) and blocks (104). She notched a team-high 17 double-double performances and totaled 30 or more assists on 17 occasions.
Larson was honored as C-USA Setter of the Week on Nov. 9, 2015.
Off the court, the junior also performed up to the standards of Watts. Larson is a regular member on the UTEP’s Dean List sporting a 3.91 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 four times (2013-2016). The well-rounded junior topped off the season by being honored to the 2015 Conference USA All-Academic volleyball team for the second consecutive year.
Sarah Villa also left her mark on the 2015 season as she set a C-USA record for digs in an individual match. The junior recorded 45 total digs while forcing Southern Miss to five sets (10/23). Her performance earned her a C-USA Co-Defensive Player of the Week honor on Oct. 26, 2015. Villa finished fifth in conference with 4.34 digs per set with a total of 434 digs on the season.
Kylie Baumgartner also had a breakout season in 2015. The redshirt-freshman saw action in all 32 matches at the middle blocker position. She led the team with 128 total blocks (9s/119a) and finished third in C-USA with an average of 1.10 blocks per set.
Baumgartner ranked fourth on the team in kills (165), while adding 20 digs, six assists and two service aces.
Her outstanding season earned her a spot on the 2015 C-USA All-Freshman Team, the second under Watts’ tenure.
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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