The Holy Innocents’ volleyball team had a strong 2018 campaign with a 25 wins and and area title. However, the Golden Bears were eliminated in the second round of the Georgia High School Association Class A playoffs by St. Francis.

Holy Innocents’ entered the 2019 without a senior on the roster in a potential rebuilding year. The Golden Bears have responded with 18 overall wins and a 5-1 mark in area play through Sept. 18. Junior outside hitter Paige Collins has taken charge for Holy Innocents’ as a leading force on offense and defense. She has amassed 192 kills, 176 digs and 31 aces, ranking among the team leaders in each of those categories.

“I’ve known Paige since her older sister played for me,” Golden Bears coach Taylor Noland said. “She’s fiercely competitive and has grown into a leader for this year’s team. I anticipate she will continue her career as a defensive player at the collegiate level which is telling of her skill, because she is a six-rotation player for Holy Innocents’. I’m so proud of how far she has come and I’m grateful she’s just a junior.”

In the Golden Bears’ 3-1 (25-23, 25-14, 26-28, 25-17) home win over Wesleyan Sept. 12, Collins had 26 digs and 17 kills for a double-double. Holy Innocents’ won both of its region home matches in 2-0 sweeps over Paideia and Weber Sept. 17, with Collins posting 11 aces.

“We want to play for each other as a team and for Coach Noland,” Collins said. “We have the common goal of wanting to win area and compete for a state championship. We discussed our serving techniques in practice before the Paideia and Weber School games which played a factor in myself and Madeline Whitaker getting aces. Against Wesleyan, I had a lot of help from Ellen Goetz setting me up for kills.”

Collins is one of seven juniors on the Golden Bears’ roster that have turned into the de facto seniors for the underclassmen.

“It’s important because we go through running and conditioning every day and can support each other,” she said. “When we’re on the court together, that’s what we want to do. I want to help the team as much as I can, especially with the underclassmen to set up a strong foundation for the future of the program. That will help us for this year and next year because we already have a bond.”

Last year’s early exit from the postseason has provided extra motivation for the Holy Innocents’ program which has won three state titles with the last one coming in 2015.

“We’re working hard this year and want to win the whole thing,” Collins said. “We’re going to have some challenges along the way but the main goal right now is to win the area title.”

Collins began playing volleyball in the fourth grade alongside her sister Haley who played at Holy Innocents from 2012 through 2015. Paige also plays for the renowned A5 club volleyball team.

“I fell in love with the sport and enjoy the team aspect,” Collins said. “I play as a defensive specialist/libero for my club team and may continue that in college. Playing for A5 provides me with discipline and another opportunity to have a leadership role. The conditioning we gain from workouts are also beneficial. I like hitting and playing defense for Holy Innocents as an outside hitter as well.”

Off the field, Collins lists United States history and English as her favorite class subjects and had a 3.7 grade point average through the last semester. She’s involved with her school’s Baking for Charity organization, which provides food for local food banks and sells items to raise money for charities. Collins, whose parents are Mike, a former professional tennis player, and Amy, enjoys the arts, particularly drawing and photography.

Holy Innocents’ returns to action Sept. 26 at home against Mount Pisgah Christian.

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