February 23, 2009

Seven Questions With Grant Hollis

Feb. 23, 2009

Stockton, Calif.-Pacific men's water polo center-forward Grant Hollis (Redlands, Cailf.) is in his junior year with the Tigers. Grant attended Redlands East Valley High School in Redlands, Calif., where he earned four varsity letters in water polo and swimming. He scored a school record 126 goals his senior season, which helped earn him the school's athlete of the year honor.

This season with the Tigers, Grant played in all 30 games and was third on the team in goals scored with 32. He used his redshirt option during the 2007 season for academic considerations. During his sophomore season at Pacific, Grant scored nine goals, and scored three goals in a game twice.

What sports did you play growing up?

When I was younger I played soccer for 12 years. Before my sophomore year in high school I went over to Europe for five weeks to play in a few tournaments. During our trip we visited Austria, north and south Germany, and a small town just outside of London. We played two tournaments in Austria and outside London, and had home stays in Germany with a family who had a son on the local club team. It was the first time I had ever left the United States, so it was a pretty crazy experience. The funny thing was we only beat one team throughout the trip, and it happened to be a team from California. I remember thinking "Why did we come all the way out here just to beat a team from California?"

I was also very interested in playing football. My dad would not let me play because you were put on teams according to weight, so I would have been playing with 13 year olds while I was only 10.

I didn't even start playing water polo until my sophomore year of high school. A buddy of mine asked me to come out for polo one day, and I agreed to give it a try. My first time out happened to be during the aquatics hell week at my high school. It was probably the worst week of my life. I remember waking up in the middle of the night trying to come up with excuses to not have to show up the next day. Luckily, I decided to stick with it and I made the team as a goalie. The varsity coach at the time thought I was too big to be a goalie, and I ended up spending the next eight months training with him to be a two-meter man. The coach was James Graham, who now happens to be the head coach here at Pacific.

What did you have to do to be sure the transition from high school to Pacific would be successful?

I went to high school at Redlands East Valley in the Inland Empire. We were always looking up to the water polo teams in Orange County. We would play them and it made me realize that there are better players out there than what I was used to. Trying to beat those teams gave me something to work towards. We were always trying to train to be as good as the Orange County teams, which prepared me coming to Pacific. That gave me a sense of reality on what it might be like to play in college. Because of this, I knew just because I was good in high school didn't mean I would dominate in college. I knew I had to work hard to be able to compete at this level. While everyone was out partying during their last summer before college, I was in Stockton training as hard as possible. I see people come in from high school thinking they are great and they usually crash and burn because they are not always prepared. A high school teammate of mine went to USC, but ended up quitting after two days because he had the mentality that if he was great now, it would be an easy transition at the college level. If he would have stuck with it he would have been on the national championship team. If you don't work hard while in high school, it is very hard to be a successful college athlete, no matter how talented you are.

Most embarrassing moment in the pool?

My most embarrassing moment at Pacific actually happened playing soccer. We were playing the women's soccer team when Dragan Bakic scored a goal. When I reached up to give him a high five, I missed and poked him in the eye. He had to sit out of the game for about ten minutes after that. Still to this day, my teammates will only give me low fives. They're afraid to get poked in the eye. Also, I want to point out that we beat the women's team that day, so it wasn't all bad.

When did you realize the difference between Division I and High School

It was during a night game at Cal during my freshman year. It was pouring rain, freezing cold and I was absolutely miserable. I remember sitting on the bench wearing a sweatshirt and towel around my waist because it was so cold. The game was a blowout and our former coach Mike Maroney yelled to me: "hey you, big guy." I had to hurry and jump in. Every muscle in my body seized up because it was so cold. As soon as I got in the pool I immediately got elbowed in the face. I remember thinking, "is this is what this is like? What did I get myself into? This is way different than high school." After that I was able to hold my own.

What the most exciting game you have been a part of at Pacific.

The most exciting game I have ever been a part of was definitely against Stanford while I was a sophomore. We had a record setting crowd of over 500 people and all the local club and high school players were there. Just being on the deck for that game was electrifying. There is a picture in the athletic department from that game, and just looking at it you can feel the excitement. We were the only team that year to beat a top four team while not being in the top four ourselves. The home crowd was amazing, which is nice because Stanford's home crowd is always very energetic. It was like giving them a taste of their own medicine. I hope before I leave that it won't be the biggest game I play in. I would like to contribute more profoundly in a game that will be etched in my memory.

If you didn't play water polo, would you play a different sport?

If water polo didn't pan out, I would probably row crew. I thought it would be a good activity to keep me strong and give me something to do. My other school choices were Cal and UC San Diego because they had a crew team. I remember looking at a map of Pacific and seeing the Calaveras River. It looked like a legitimate river. I remember thinking "they have to have a crew team. Look at that river. They can just row in this river right through campus. Sweet." When I came on my visit I saw the river and said "that's not rowable."

Talk about this year's team chemistry.

I really enjoy hanging out with the guys on the team. The best thing about that is there doesn't seem to be any divisions between classes. The freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors all stick together. It's a dynamic that doesn't always exist. I remember during my freshman year I wouldn't talk to the older guys much. I was the scared freshman. Now, we've welcomed the freshmen in such a way that they feel like they are part of the team. I feel it shows in the pool because we play together better than ever before. I really like this group and spending time with them. We do things together like paint our bodies and go to basketball games. We look like fools but we're together, and that's all that matters.

What do you like to do when you're not playing water polo?

I just love going to sporting events. Any Pacific sporting event or at the Stockton arena, it doesn't matter. I love the Lakers and Nebraska Cornhusker football. My dad raised my brother and me to want to be Cornhuskers. I grew up thinking how awesome it would be to play football at Nebraska and make my dad happy. It's kind of ironic that he wouldn't let me play football when I was younger.