Photo courtesy of Ohio State athletic department
It took 7,596 miles for Mari Hole to find a school that felt right to her academically and athletically, but both she and the rest of the Ohio State women’s volleyball team agree it was worth every mile.
The first 5,323 miles took place when the junior outside hitter left her hometown of Oslo, Norway to play at UCLA. The last 2,273 came when she decided to transfer to OSU after her first two years.
It was all a part of an unusual journey for a girl who did not even start playing volleyball until six years ago.
Hole said she played soccer and skied growing up but got into volleyball eventually because her mom’s side of the family plays. It eventually led to her decision to come to the U.S.
“My mom played a year at Hawaii back in ‘86 or something so I kind of always heard of the possibility and she always talked about it so I decided to give it a try,” Hole said. “I was lucky enough to get a scholarship.”
Hole now leads the team with her 282 kills and 323.5 points, both fifth-best in the Big Ten. It was the perfect addition for the 13-6 Buckeyes who lost 802 kills and 41 percent of their points from their two senior outside hitters last year .
“It was kind of just like a big deep breath-and-relax kind of thing because we were kind of short on outside hitters,” senior libero Sarah Mignin said. “We really didn’t have any experience so having a player who did play in a big conference in the Pac-10 really helped us.”
Hole was an All-Pac-10 Freshman Honorable Mention in her first year at UCLA but a change of coaches and several other factors led to her decision to transfer.
“I wasn’t too happy about my athletic situation and then academically there wasn’t anything I really wanted to study and I was kind of done with the culture there,” Hole said. “So it was kind of one of those things I decided to give something else a try.”
Coach Geoff Carlston was looking for a player at the time, said he heard through the grapevine about Hole and got an official release to start talking to her.
“We had the stats and saw a little bit of YouTube video but it was mostly just talking to people,” Carlston said. “We hadn’t seen her a lot because she didn’t play a lot her sophomore year.”
Hole narrowed the transfer down to four schools that she visited and said academics played a major part in where she looked because UCLA did not have a major she wanted to do.
Both Hole and fellow junior and outside hitter Emily Danks said Hole’s visit to OSU went really well.
“I remember we were sitting around at someone’s house watching “The Bachelor” and just hanging out and everyone just thought she was the coolest girl ever,” Danks said. “We were all here coaching camps one night and Jayme, our assistant coach, came running down the ramp and said Mari is committing and it was like a big celebration.”
Danks, Carlston and Mignin all agreed Hole is leader on the team and a big part of their success.
“The kids love her and she feels really comfortable here,” Carlston said. “She’s just a great student, works hard, just everything across the board. We couldn’t ask for a better person to join our team.”
Comfortable is the key word for Hole. Hole said she never felt that way in her two years trying to transition from Norway’s culture to the West Coast culture of Los Angeles and of the U.S. in general.
“In Norway since it’s such a small sport, it isn’t a business,” Hole said. “Just to realize how big the sport really is. How much people put into it and how the support system around it is a big difference.”
Because of its low popularity in Norway, Hole said volleyball was played more for fun, but now after two years she is used to the system and how it works here.
“The more comfortable I get,” she said, “The more confident I get as a player and that’s when I play good.”
The biggest challenge Hole still faces in the U.S. is missing her family back in Norway, with whom she is very close.
“I love being home, so it’s never fun leaving,” Hole said. “That will probably never get easy, but it’s kind of one of those things when you get th