Hollstein shoots free throw

North Central's Kendee Hollstein gets ready to shoot a free throw against Cardinal Stritch during Saturday's nonconference girls basketball game at North Central High School.

PIONEER — North Central’s Kendee Hollstein realizes her high school athletics career is almost over.

The 5-foot-9 senior was a two-year letterwinner on the volleyball team, which had arguably its best season in school history in winning a Buckeye Border Conference title, its first Division IV district title and advanced to a regional semifinal against Leipsic.

“That was definitely amazing to be even a part of it,” Hollstein said. “Like, I couldn’t believe that we got to do that. I know it was amazing to see how talented we were as a group and how well we work together as a team.”

Now, she’s having similar emotions in basketball as she did toward the end of volleyball season.

“I was looking at my volleyball jersey the other day, and just looking at pictures, it definitely brings back how sad it is that it’s over, and just realizing that basketball is going to be over next,” Hollstein said.

But she’s still going to enjoy every second. The Eagles are 3-4 (2-3 BBC) as of Monday afternoon, and are looking to make a run in the conference.

And not only this year, but Hollstein has been key for North Central over the last three-plus years. She’s looking to earn her third letter this season and played a significant amount when she was a freshman.

Which she doesn’t take lightly.

“It means a lot. I never thought coming into freshman year that I would ever be on varsity at all. I never thought that would be a thing,” Hollstein said. “I always thought I would be on JV — even my sophomore year, that I would be (on varsity). Coach (Greg) Waidelich definitely knew that he thought I was definitely ready for it. He believed in me and helped me get to that level.

“It’s very important to me. And to have him, it just helped more.”

Waidelich has coached Hollstein since she was in seventh grade, and has seen her leadership skills each year that’s gone by — even if she doesn’t recognize it.

“She’s always been a really hard worker, and I think she’s someone who’s always been more of a leader than she’s given herself credit for,” Waidelich said. “As she’s gotten older, I think she’s really started to understand how much influence she can have over other people and just how her personality can rub off on other people.”

Hollstein said she and the rest of the upperclassmen just try to show and tell the younger kids how Waidelich wants things done, “so he doesn’t have to tell them what he wants.”

Waidelich also has seen her improve this year on the court. In fact, Waidelich said Hollstein had one of her best career games in a 54-33 win at Fayette on Dec. 21.

“Every coach turned to each other after the game and was like, ‘That was by far the best game I’ve ever seen her play,’” he said. “She’s always been someone who’s really hard on themselves and will get frustrated, and you didn’t see her drop her head for a single time that entire game.

“It was just perfect. It was just so fun to see her be able to do that and kind of be that leader that we knew she could be.”

Waidelich also said Hollstein is doing things she wouldn’t have done in years past, like nailing a 3-pointer at the top of the key against Liberty Center on Dec. 5, and “how she is willing to try things a little bit more this year” and make in-game adjustments quicker.

“That would not have happened awhile ago,” Waidelich said. “Just to see her kind of get that confidence (is great).”

Hollstein is also a two-year letterwinner in softball, her favorite sport. She has played since her freshman year, with last season being canceled due to COVID-19. She’s also in the Future Farmers of America chapter at North Central.

“I come from a family that’s like that,” Hollstein said. “My dad (Michael) was always in FFA and my mom (Heather), so I always thought that was something that I would want to do. And I really enjoyed it. Like all the hands-on stuff that we do and learning about everything.”

After high school, Hollstein plans on studying nursing in college and hopefully play softball. But right now, it’s about soaking in her last season on the basketball court and enjoying every moment — even with COVID-19 playing a factor.

“This isn’t one of our best seasons with COVID-19 and everything, but I think we’re definitely working through it and doing as best as we can with it,” Hollstein said. “I’m really going to miss the whole basketball team and the whole idea of playing — and coach (Waidelich) too.”

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