HOLTVILLE — When one of the top cross-country runners in Imperial County decides she wants to learn another sport, nobody thought Holtville High sophomore Lilly Strahm would go about it the way she did.
As a freshman, Strahm finished fourth at the Imperial Valley League cross country finals at Sunbeam Lake Park near Seeley back in March, setting her up to be a top-three runner for her sophomore season.
When practice began in August, Strahm was there training with coach Gerardo Lara and the cross country team in the mornings. But the 15-year-old was also at volleyball practices in the evenings attempting to make either the JV or varsity team.
“When we were home during COVID, I was watching Netflix and saw an anime about volleyball and I saw how much love the players have for the sport and decided I wanted to give it a try,” Strahm said about what got her into volleyball. “So I got a flat soccer ball and started playing by myself outside.”
Why a flat soccer ball? “It’s all I had,” Strahm said.
Not only did Strahm start learning with a flat soccer ball, she decided to do what everyone does and look on YouTube for help. She searched for how to play volleyball and how to be a volleyball setter.
“You don’t have a tutor or a personal coach that can help you, you do what you have to do,” Strahm said. “I’d never played before this year so I looked it up on YouTube and that’s how I learned.”
Chelsey Strahm, Holtville High School’s fifth-year head volleyball coach, said she saw Lilly during a few COVID workouts but didn’t think much of it until she saw her again this past June when the volleyball team started playing summer games.
“I think I sent her one chart that kind of explained the layouts and what the setter does, but the rest she learned on her own,” Chelsey Strahm said. “She shows up for our summer team and she’s jump setting, which is pretty advanced for where we thought she was at.”
Lilly Strahm impressed coaches enough to earn a spot on the Vikings’ varsity roster, however she does float down to junior varsity at times to get more court time, something she didn’t get as a youngster.
“I was surprised when I made the varsity but super excited,” Lilly Strahm said. “I still need to learn the rotations and learn where I’m supposed to be.”
Most of Holtville’s team came up through the Holtville Volleyball Club, but Lilly Strahm didn’t participate and didn’t play volleyball at Pine School either. Her first exposure to it was playing by herself in her back yard.
“Quarantine tried to lock us up but I didn’t want to be locked up,” Lilly Strahm said. “Things I couldn’t learn because of the quarantine, I went to YouTube to learn.”
Lilly Strahm is juggling a busy schedule with cross country training in the mornings at 5 a.m., then school, then volleyball practice or matches after school. But to her, it’s all good after more than a year of not doing anything.
“It’s been tough doing both but I just consider it a blessing that I get to do both sports that I love,” Lilly Strahm said. “I usually don’t have any trouble falling asleep at night. I’m just fall asleep when my head hits the pillow.”