Holmes leads culture change at Meridian

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMarch 14, 2014 

Meridian’s Kendra Holmes leads the Trojans during the 2013 season.

ANDY BRONSON — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

The bitter taste of an unsatisfying season coming to an abrupt end is familiar to Meridian senior Kendra Holmes.

She's seen it all too often, the Trojans' softball team going a combined 23-47 since her freshman year in 2011.

But when Jordan Chambers assumed command of Meridian's program before the 2014 season, he brought with him aspirations that included lengthy playoff runs - that included changing the culture the Trojans had grown so accustomed to.

Allowing him to be so ambitious? Having a senior captain like Holmes.

"We're trying to build this program from the ground up, and she is taking on the leadership role," Chambers said in a phone interview. "She's the one that holds the other girls accountable. That's big for a younger team. She is the glue holding our team together."

The Trojans begin their regular season against Lakewood at 4 p.m., Monday, March 17, eyeing a fresh start under a new regime.

Chambers thought to change the culture in a drastic way, asking his players to hit the weight room, clean the field after practice and weather longer, more rigorous practices. Holmes was at the forefront of that, embracing the fresh take that could yield a greater outcome in her final year at Meridian.

"I'm excited to be our leader and to just make everybody motivated and excited to be out there, and not dread going to practices," Holmes said in a phone interview. "I want this year to be a turning point for Meridian fastpitch, and to have people out there excited for us, telling people not to look down on us."

She'll do so from her familiar position of shortstop, moving from the top of the lineup into the No. 3 hole where Chambers expects her to be the one driving in runs.

But her importance to the team expands far beyond the plate and in the field. She provides a temperament others can follow, Chambers said, and at times during the offseason, he's needed her sell his philosophy.

"She was the one that really pushed the other girls when the other girls wanted to walk away and not do the weights and not want to do the program," Chambers said. "She's the one yelling at the girls to keep going, keep going. She's bought in."

It wasn't necessarily a tough sell to a girl who's fully embraced her role as the captain of Meridian's team.

She's also embraced the mentality of hitting in the middle of Chambers' lineup, moving from the leadoff spot where she's spent the better part of the last two years at.

"I'm just trying to make sure I move the runners and not necessarily trying to get myself on, but trying to get what's best for the team," Holmes said.

Her gritty approach at the plate isn't one that lends itself to home runs, Chambers said, but her ability to grind out plate appearances and get on base is important for the Trojans' success this season on offense.

"She's just unique," Chambers said. "Her swing is smooth. Her throw is smoother. She is every coach's dream. ... She'll get dirty when she needs to get dirty. Has great range. A five-tool player."

Holmes, despite spending the better part of the last three summers on a traveling team, didn't take to softball when she first began playing in the fifth grade. She thought it was too slow - too boring when coaches pitched. As the intensity began to pick up, so, too, did her passion for the sport.

"Little kids hitting off coach pitching, I really wasn't in to it," Holmes said.

Now, fully ingratiated into what Chambers is selling, she's never been more excited for a season to begin.

Reach Alex Bigelow at alex.bigelow@bellinghamherald.com or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports updates.

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