The pain, though, of seeing his top player go through her injuries is also evident on the face of her coach Dan Miller when he talks about the Warsaw Community High School senior soccer star.
Both, however, are ecstatic that the familiar No. 25 Tiger jersey is back on the pitch and not on the bench anymore.
Hollar, who missed all of her junior season due to a knee injury, recently returned to action after hurting her knee again last month. The standout forward returned Sept. 10 after missing the previous five games after being hurt in a collision with the Plymouth goalie in a game at Plymouth Aug. 21.
“I’m just so excited to be back on the field,” said Hollar, with a spark in her eyes and a happy tone to her voice last Thursday prior to a home game versus Columbia City. “It’s amazing. It was so joyful to be back out there on Monday (for a game at Fort Wayne Northrop).
“Soccer brings so much joy to my life. I don’t enjoy sitting on the bench. It’s hard to be a leader on the side when you’re not playing. I just tried to do my best to encourage my teammates, but it was tough to have to sit out again.”
Hollar, who will need surgery after the season to repair the most recent injury to her knee, has persevered through the pain and the what-ifs.
“Before the injury (the first one during a travel soccer game in 2011), soccer owned me and it was my identity,” explained Hollar, who will play next year at Grace College. “Now, I give the glory to God. It’s been a whole flip-flop for me. I know all of this is in his plan for me.
“It was heartbreaking the first time to get hurt and then it happened again last month and it was a big setback and so upsetting at first. But, I try not to ask why and just know that I can get through all of this no matter what with God’s help.
“It’s actually been cool to have this happen. It’s turned into a positive experience for me. I’ve grown a lot as a person spiritually and I’ve been able to use this as a testimony to others.”Hollar set a school record in 2010 when she blasted home 28 goals for the Tigers, including 11 in three games as Warsaw won the sectional. She also set a school standard with 61 points that season. The talented young lady, with the big right foot, was also well on pace to shatter the school mark for career goals of 61 set by Ashley Kitchens. Hollar, after scoring two goals versus Columbia City last Thursday, now has 52 in her career. She started the season by scoring five (to tie her own single-game school record) in a win over Huntington North.
“Before I got hurt again, I was probably around 90 percent and getting close,” said Hollar. “Now, it’s like 50 percent. I still try to use my speed, but it’s devastating to not be able to run as fast as I used to.”
“Meredith has grown and matured a lot through all of this,” said WCHS coach Miller. “She’s maintained a good attitude and made the most of it. She’s been a huge role model to others on how to handle setbacks.
“When you go from being an All-State player to having to sit on the bench it puts things in perspective. It’s been hard on me to see her hurt and it keeps me up at night. When she got hurt at Plymouth it was surreal. I was thinking this can’t happen and she’ll get up and be okay. It was a hard pill to swallow. It was a combination of emotions. I ached for her and our team.”
Warsaw was 13-3-2 a year ago and lost 4-2 eventual state runner-up South Bend St. Joseph in the regional. The Tigers are 7-2-2 this fall with four regular-season games left and then sectional play in early October for Hollar to try and reach the record she would have obliterated if healthy.
“I just hope Meredith can make the run at the record and we can win a sectional,” Miller said.
Hollar is no stranger to athletics and success. Her father Steve, a highly-respected dentist in Warsaw, was a hoops hero at WCHS. He hit the game-winning free throws for the Tigers in the 1984 state championship game, but is best known for his role as Rade Butcher, a player for Hickory High in the 1986 classic movie “Hoosiers”, which starred Gene Hackman. Hollar played college basketball at DePauw University in Greencastle.
Meredith’s brothers Bennett and Jonny were key players for the WCHS boys golf team that tied for sixth place at the State Finals this past June. Bennett graduated and now plays at Wheaton College, while Jonny is a sophomore at WCHS.
“That’s why I wear 25,” said Hollar referring to her father. “Everyone has been so encouraging through all of this, especially my parents (Steve and Jennifer), my pastor (Bruce Barlow) and coaches Miller and Voss.
“I just want to have fun the rest of the year. I know that I still have playing at Grace ahead of me. I’ve never been so happy about a decision. I know Grace is the place for me.”
And so is back on the field.