Free State High senior Shelby Holmes held a hefty piece of cake on a small plastic plate Wednesday afternoon in the FSHS commons and flashed an effervescent smile.
“I’ve been looking forward to this cake all week,” she said.
It wasn’t her sweet tooth that made this particular after school snack appealing. Rather, it was what it represented. The dessert, which she shared with her Firebirds teammates, friends, family and coach Nancy Hopkins, celebrated Holmes’ signing to play volleyball at Arkansas State University. Joining the NCAA Division I program in the Sun Belt Conference carried a lot more excitement than a piece of cake.
“It’s a little crazy,” Holmes said. “It finally hit me: You are going to college, whether you like it or not.”
Holmes decided on the Red Wolves after talking with coach David Rehr a couple of times and making an unofficial visit to the Jonesboro, Ark., campus.
“The team and the coach, I just really liked all of their dynamics and everything,” said Holmes, who plans to study physical therapy and work toward earning a doctorate. “It was just kind of like I felt like I belonged there. I know it’s kind of cheesy. But you kind of get the feeling that you’re supposed to be there and it’s a natural thing.
“OK, I can spend four to seven years of my life here.”
Holmes, who set a Free State record with 325 kills in her senior season, transferred to FSHS from Veritas Christian at the start of her sophomore year.
She said coming from a small private school where she knew everyone from kindergarten to the 12th grade to a Class 6A public school was a lot to process at first. But playing volleyball — with friends she knew from the club circuit and her older sister, Meghan — eased that transition.
“I’m glad I did (transfer), because Free State, with its size and also its volleyball program,” Holmes said, nodding toward Hopkins, “has helped me really become stronger as a player and then stronger just all around, socially, schooling, all of that stuff. I’m ready for college.”