For Eilie Holland, she did get to enjoy her senior season in her favorite sport, but missed out on her final track and field season at Marathon Central School.
The daughter of Jim and Roseann Holland graduated third in the Class of 2020 for the Olympians and will not only be taking her field hockey skills, but academic prowess to Mansfield University this fall. She will major in biology/pre-med and hopes to head to medical school in the future to become a doctor.
What I found interesting in interviewing Holland was her path to field hockey followed another person I talked to last fall, current SUNY Cortland field hockey coach Tiffany Hubbard. That parallel was converting from soccer to field hockey and falling in love with the sport.
“I played soccer all the way from kindergarten through sixth grade,” Holland said. “Miss (Cathy) Hoyt, who was the elementary school PE teacher, ran a little tournament for sixth grade field hockey. She asked if I would play because she needed girls. It was a one time thing, but I really liked it so I decided I was going to try it in high school. My first year was in seventh grade I really liked it so I just kept practicing over the summer and the next thing I knew I was on the JV team in eighth grade and I decided I was going to stay with it.”
After that first competitive year in eighth grade as a JV player, Holland found herself on the varsity team with legendary coach Karen Funk as a freshman. She became a four-time, first-team all-star, was the Most Improved Player her freshman year and a co-MVP her sophomore year. Holland was a team captain her junior and senior years and a two-time MVP, plus she won the Dedication and Perseverance Award as a senior. Holland was also the Marathon Central School Female Athlete of the Year in her senior season. She finished with 30 goals and 12 assists on an Olympian team that really went through a rebuilding phase during her tenure. 18 of those goals came in her senior season as Marathon advanced to the second round of the Section 4 Class C Tournament before falling to eventual Section 4 champion Greene in the semifinals.
WORK ETHIC CITED
In ninth grade, I could see that Eilie would be an above average hockey player,” Funk said. “Her work ethic was her biggest strength as a ninth-grader on the varsity team. Never intimidated by the seniors on the team, she personally wanted to be a good teammate as well as a good player. She not only for the next four years, would work on her field hockey skills, but strength and conditioning year round would motivate her to set some lofty goals as a sophomore-she really wanted to play D-1 or D2 collegiate hockey.”
In the 1990s and early 2000s, Marathon was a dominant field hockey winning number of Section 4 and New York state titles, but the program has gone through a rougher patch over the past few seasons. Holland has been a part of the rebuild.
“It really was hard, but honestly, it pushed me a lot to get better,” Holland said. “I wanted, even if the team wasn’t up to par with hose past team, I wanted to be like one of those top players Coach Funk had of those great teams. It made me feel like I was one of those players who was working hard, helping rebuild the program and inspire other girls along the way to work hard as well. I wanted to help get the team back to where it was.”
Does she have a special game memory?
“I guess the second game against Moravia in my senior year,” Holland said. “We lost in an overtime shootout the first time. We needed to win this time to go to sectionals and we won in a shootout. That was pretty cool.”
Holland also believes the Olympians are on the rise again in field hockey.
“I think the program is heading in the right direction,” she said. “Coach has a lot of good players coming up in seventh grade and younger that are really talented. I think the program is going to be really good again.”
From that beginning player in sixth grade to now, what has Holland seen as the biggest improvement in her game?
“I really think my biggest improvement was in my confidence,” Holland replied. “From my junior year to my senior year was that change. As a junior, I didn’t want to shoot the ball. We were losing games 1-0 or losing in overtime, but I would bring the ball down and pass it. I wouldn’t shoot. I would give the ball to someone else. I put every away about what people were saying about me being a ball hog or not and shot the ball. We ended up winning more games. I just went with it.”
“Ellie knew she had to do all of the “extra” things-be self motivated doing workouts, attend clinics (New Jersey, Virginia, Pennsylvania as well as throughout New York), join an indoor hockey team and attend tournaments throughout the East Coast,” Funk said. “She and her family were dedicated to give her the experience she would need to play at the next level.”
In her junior year, Holland decided to compete in track and field as well. She was the Rookie of the Year and a second team all-star. She was part of the Most Valuable Relay Team in the 4×400 and 4×800. Of course, COVID -19 prevented her competing a second year.
“I’m decent enough at it,” she chuckled. “Doing track helped me continue my training into the summer. I just wasn’t jumping back into it after a long break. My winter break was long enough. I couldn’t practice as much so I could begin picking it up in the spring and it would help continue my training through the summer into the fall.”
Holland acknowledged she had several offers to continue her field hockey career at college with Mansfield University in Pennsylvania getting her final approval.
“One choice was the distance,” Holland said. “It’s just a couple of hours from home. It’s not to close and it’s not to far. It’s an easy drive. It was also the team. The coach (Brittany Hansrote) has rebuilt this program and they are a top 10 team in NCAA Division II. They were favored to go a long way in the NCAA Tournament this year, but that’s not going to happen at this point. Everything just really worked out well with the college as far as education as well.”
“I am so very proud of all that Eilie has accomplished,” Funk said. “She worked so hard and put the time in, on and off the field to achieve her dream to play at the next level. She will be a great addition to the Mansfield field hockey program and I look forward to see her play at the college level.”
Her father is the coach of the Olympians’ boys’ basketball team and her brother Conor is a member of that team. Is there a rivalry between her and her younger sibling?
“I think we feed off each other,” she replied. “If one of us is successful in one season, the other wants to be more successful in their season. In my junior year, he had more success in basketball so it pushed me to want to do better in the fall. I think I did that, but he was having another good year that ended early this winter.”
That led to the hypothetical question of who would be tougher to play for, Coach Funk or your father?
“I heard Coach Funk was harder on those players back in the day so I really do think she is harder to be for,” Holland said. “At least I can run to my mom if dad was mean to me. There’s no one to run to from Coach Funk.”
As Holland moves on to a delayed college career at Mansfield, no sports this fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic, what are her goals?
“I want to see the team continue to be successful and grow,” Holland said. “I would like to win an NCAA championship or at least make the Final Four in the tournament. I want to be successful and have four good seasons, not a few iffy seasons here or there.”
There have been a few Marathon field hockey players who got some additional national attention, would she like to play with the United State National team at some point?
“If I got to the point where I thought I could do that it would be a huge dream of mine, but I’m not sure if that would ever be possible with medical school,” Holland said. “The time commitment for both would be tough because those players on the national team spend a lot of time practicing every day. It really depends where my life takes me after college.”
That “if” thing came up, is it again more mental that you could do it?
“Yes it is,” she replied. “I think I could keep up physically, but mentally they are all just so good and to fit in with that would be hard.”
Looking down the road, where does Eilie Holland want to be.
“Hopefully I will have won four national championships,” Holland said with a bit of laughter. “I hope to have a job as a full-time certified doctor. My ultimate job is to be a dermatologist, but I’ll see where that goes as well, because I could always change my direction in med school. I change my direction a lot. I wouldn’t mind buying into one of these club field hockey teams, maybe co-own one of those teams.”
Is there a preference to playing on grass or turf for Holland. Marathon briefly talked about a turf field a few years go.
“It’s definitely better playing on turf,” Holland said. “Most of the high school teams we play now have turf. It’s more difficult playing on grass. We have always played better on turf. It would be a good investment for Marathon.”
What other memories with Eilie Holland take from her years at Marathon?
“Definitely the last few years of basketball,” she said. “Watching the team from the stands. The crowds were exciting. The state games with the boys in soccer this year. Graduating in the top three with two of my close friends from elementary school. We never really got to enjoy a lot of what we might have in our senior year, but I have enjoyed every year at Marathon.”
It’s been a unique senior year, but it’s a class of not just smart athletes, but smart students academically.
“All of in the top 20 have been fighting for that better spot academically,” Holland said. “No one was able to slack off. Everyone earned their spot on the athletic field and in the classroom. There were no real stars, but a good group where everyone worked together. It was a case where everyone was successful on the field and in their classes.”
So Eilie Holland closes one chapter of her life and now looks forward to the next chapter. There is nothing but good wishes that she continues to find success in the future.