Hollenback hurdles adversity en route to college hoops


MISSOULA, Mont. - In the spring of 2014, Skylar Hollenback earned all-state basketball honors as just a sophomore for Missoula Loyola. However a junior year filled with big hopes was dashed in the first weekend of action when Hollenback tore the ACL in her left knee and would have to miss the entire season.

"Rehab was five days a week," recalled Hollenback of her recovery. "Getting in the gym every single day. getting back to lifting without over-doing it was a big part for me."

"She was in here right away, working on ball-handling drills in a chair," said Alyssa Pfahler of Pfahler Sport Specific, who began training Hollenback back in 2013. "We did that for a couple months, before she could even really walk."

The hard work would pay off for Hollenback. As a senior she led Loyola to the state tournament averaging 17 points per game and was once again selected as an all-state player. However she elected not to continue hoops onto the college level.

"Junior year was really tough, missing that for recruiting and I felt a lot of pressure coming back," she said. "So I think that was a big part of me not playing college basketball. I just worked so hard and was in the gym every single day... I kind of got burnt out."

But she was still drawn to the court of course, this time as an assistant coach for her alma mater Loyola while she attended the University of Montana for her freshman year of college.

"It was hard to see them practicing and I couldn't do that or be a part of that with a team," said Hollenback of coaching the Breakers. "I realized I really missed it."

So after a second detour, Hollenback got back on the road towards college basketball; A journey that's landed her at Northwest University outside Seattle where she'll have four years of eligibility. Northwest is an NAIA school whose athletic teams compete in the Cascade Collegiate Conference (CCC).

"I knew Alyssa's brother and he went there," said Hollenback. "So I had a connection with that. I went on a three-day recruiting trip and I absolutely fell in love with it and it was awesome and the girls were great. I'm so excited, it will be so much fun."

"Playing basketball in college is one of the greatest things ever," explained Alyssa Pfahler who played four years for the Lady Griz. "So I'm really excited for her to experience the same thing."

Despite an untraditional route to college basketball, Hollenback is now ready for the task and knows firsthand that it's important to never take the game for granted.

"I mean if she would have forced it and tried to play right after high school and her heart wasn't in it, who knows if she'd be playing now," said Pfahler. "To kind of watch this whole thing happen and come together for her, it's just been... it's been really fun."

"The love for the game has become stronger for me," smiled Hollenback. "I'm so grateful for this opportunity."

An opportunity that Hollenback has more than earned.