“She is so kind hearted and such a caring person, but then there’s another side of her that is super goofy,” Spanish Springs coach Christine Eckles said. “In practice, she can’t have her uniform where her jersey and her shorts are the same color. If she’s wearing purple shorts and we tell them to switch their jersey to purple, she gets all flustered. She’s just a big goof ball.”
For Holladay, the matching quandary is a serious dilemma, along with the rest of her superstitions.
“Purple-on-purple or white-on-white, it just doesn’t work for me,” she said. “I just don’t like it. If there is just plain white-on-white, it’s just something that gets to me. It started probably my sophomore year. It’s just something that bothers me.
“I’m just really superstitious. I try out different things before a game and if I do something in particular and I play really well, I do it again until it doesn’t work. Then I have to switch it up. I’ll eat something before a game and if I have a good game, I’ll make sure that I eat the same thing again. I have socks that are practice socks and game socks. It’s just something I’ve always done.”
So far, Holladay’s concern with the harmonizing of her practice uniform, and which socks are on her feet, seems to be paying off for both her and the Cougars.
Nine games into the young season, Holladay is averaging over 13 points a game, along with six rebounds and five assists per game. This past Saturday, she recorded the first triple-double in program history. Holladay, who earned second-team all-league honors both as a sophomore and junior, provides much more to the Cougars than just stats though.
“If you have good leadership on the floor, than that’s kind of what puts you over the edge. Riley does that,” Eckles said. “She is willing to work the hardest and willing to say the tough thing to the team when they need to hear it. She is also the first one to take responsibility for how she plays. That’s all you can ask of leadership. She’s well respected by her teammates and by other teams that she plays. She’s just an all-around good kid and good leader.”
It is a role that Holladay has embraced.
“I’m very vocal. Everybody looks to you as a leader. They look at your demeanor and body language and how you’re conveying yourself to others. So I just try to be vocal and work hard. I don’t think if you’re vocal, but you don’t work hard, people are going to listen to you. You have to be both.”
Holladay began playing basketball competitively in the fourth grade, but the sport has always been a part of her life.
“My brother and I have played since I could walk,” Holladay said. “When I was little, I always wanted to be like my older brother. Everything he did, I wanted to do. He was always playing sports and I just kind of went with him. In fourth grade, I went to the Nevada Basketball Academy for the first time and the coaches there just kind of made me fall in love with the game.”
Since her freshman year at Spanish Springs, Holladay has matured through that love of the game.
“I’ve had Riley since she was a freshman and just watching her grow as a player has been outstanding,” Eckles said. “Her game has really grown. The most impressive thing has been her attitude. Last year, when we lost to Carson (in the playoffs), she just texted me the next day and said that she would be a different player and make some of those weaknesses she had into strengths, and she did that over the summer. She’s really expanded her game.”
The Cougars’ loss in the regional quarterfinals last season continues to be fuel for Holladay in her senior year.
“Last year we had a chance and we didn’t capitalize on it,” she said. “It kind of left a bitter taste in our mouth but it’s been a driving force for us this season. Our big goal is to get in the playoffs and win.
“It was hard to lose like that. We all knew there was something in that game that we all could have done better. Especially from a leadership standpoint, I looked at myself and questioned what could have I done to better prepare myself and my team for that situation. It’s been a fire in all of our stomachs just knowing that we had that chance last year and we didn’t capitalize on it. We want to work hard and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
While Holladay is focused on this season with the Cougars, she will soon be joining the Cal State Stanislaus women’s basketball team. It is a new endeavor that Holladay is eager to take on.
“I’m just looking forward to taking my game to the next level,” she said. “I’m looking forward to change. I love it here, but it’s always been a dream of mine to leave and be my own individual. I’m excited to be on my own for once and see what I can do by myself.”
As long as her Warriors’ practice jersey and shorts are not gold-on-gold or red-on-red, Holladay will be just fine.