By Sam Thomas
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
With the summer releases of the blockbuster films Marvel's The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises, comic book stories have never been more popular. But it's an unexpected athlete, University of Oklahoma freshman volleyball player Kierra Holst, who knows all about the caped heroes and masked men.
"I love comics," Holst said. "I've always loved anything to do with super heroes."
Holst has introduced many of her teammates on the Sooner volleyball team to the world of comic books and super heroes, even though she has been reading them for years- since middle school to be precise.
Holst's interests not only include the renowned American comics like Batman and Spiderman, but popular stories from Japan as well.
"My older sister got into Japanese anime and manga [cartoons and comics], so I started reading it too."
"Then I had another friend who had a lot of Marvel comic books and I just thought they were so cool, so I would go over to his house to read them all the time."
Holst's love for comics has only grown over time.
"I watch all the movies, I love all the books and I'm trying to find some t-shirts. I'm the biggest nerd you will ever meet."
Most of Holst's teammates have trouble sharing in her off-the-court hobby.
"I try to talk about comics with my teammates, but no one really listens. I'll bring stuff in to read, and they'll wonder what's going on," the 6'4" middle blocker explained.
Part of the confusion stems from the layout of the Japanese comics.
"The manga books read backwards, so I'll show them how to read it, but they usually just don't understand. They think it's funny; they think it's just me."
Sophomore outside hitter Tara Dunn has taken notice of Holst's unique interest, but has a difficult time sharing her passion for the comics.
"I haven't read any of them," Dunn said. "For a while during preseason, she would read them in the locker room while everyone else was watching TV and stuff, and I just couldn't get into it."
"If she had a super power, it would probably be speed reading."
Holst has made a connection with junior defensive specialist Mindy Gowen, as they both have an interest in Japanese anime. For Gowen, the series YiGiOh! interests her most.
"I'm really excited because I have someone to share my weirdness with now," Gowen explained. "I didn't have anybody before. Everyone is pretty normal, so now I have someone to be weird with."
Gowen and Holst plan to room together next year and have already put their love for anime on the schedule.
They're also making time for their favorite movie series.
"We're going to have anime nights every week and then watch Harry Potter all weekend," Gowen went on to say.
In her first year in the crimson and cream, Holst has already made an impact on the team. As of the beginning of November, she has played in all 25 matches and averaged 1.95 kills per set with a .238 hitting percentage.
Some on the team believe the comic book powers she reads daily may have transitioned from the pages she flips through to Holst's play on court.
"She definitely has contributed a lot this year as a freshman," Dunn said. "You never know, maybe it's the anime helping her out."
Gowen has also noticed Holst's seemingly superhuman potential on the court.
"She could be a Jedi Master," an enthused Gowen said. "She just seems to have the Force on her side."
"A lot of the times when she gets a kill, she seems to put it in the right spot like its magic or telekinetic. She does the same thing with her serves; she just seems to get it in the right spot."
Holst sometimes thinks about what super powers would suit her best on the court.
"This would be kind of cheating, but I would love to have power over time," Holst said.
"If a ball was falling, I would pause time to save it. I would feel bad using it though, because that would be cheating."
Although 'using the Force' or having the power to stop time seems a little out of reach, Holst has found some virtues and characteristics of her heroes that she can use.
"I like their confidence. I always love that they are really sure of themselves, but are also modest. I like how they always try. Even if they don't succeed the first time, they keep going at it. They never give up on their task," the Coppell, Texas-native explained
Holst knows that she has limits to her abilities, but there is one variable she can control.
"Maybe I don't have superpowers, but I imagine if all the comic heroes didn't have superpowers either, they would still work hard. They would still try to be the best at what they can be. They would still help other people, which is awesome."
"When you're out on the court, you need to help your other teammates. You can't let anyone down."