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Cheryl Holt
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When Cheryl Holt was hired as a coach at Austin Peay, much emphasis was being placed on improving Austin Peay's tennis program by then-President Robert O. Riggs.

Athletics Director Johnny Miller had other thoughts-he wanted to elevate his volleyball program. Holt, who had attained her master's at Austin Peay a few years earlier after graduating from Ohio State, had enjoyed successful stints as head volleyball coach at both Ole Miss and Miami. The fact Holt was a member of the Ohio State tennis team was good enough qualifications for Miller to hire her for the dual position-back in those days it was common for women's coaches to coach multiple sports.

That began Holt's illustrious 23-year APSU coaching career that saw her serve as volleyball coach (1982-2004), head tennis (1983-85) and softball coach (1986-87) as well as assistant women's basketball coach for one season.

Utilizing multi-sport athletes in the early going, Holt watched the volleyball program struggle during her early years.  Still, she was able to achieve a degree of success, earning OVC South Coach of the Year in 1986 and 1987 during the league's old North-South format.

But as a new decade opened, so did the emphasis on volleyball. The Columbus, Ohio, native received back-to-back OVC Coach of the Year honors in 1991 and 1992. She earned the 1991 honor after leading her squad to the OVC tourney championship, becoming the first non-Kentucky team to earn the league title. The Lady Govs, who tied for third during the regular season, stunned the tourney field, losing just two sets during in three matches. They dominated Morehead State in the championship match, winning the final game by an overwhelming 15-5 score to finish the year at 22-11-unfortunately no automatic NCAA bid was extended in those days. Still that season represented the first of five 20-win campaigns under Holt. 

The next year, she led the Lady Govs to their first regular-season title with an impressive 28-7 record, those 28 victories still a program best. 

In fact, Holt amassed 364 victories as APSU head volleyball coach-most of her victories (241) came in her final 13 years as coach when more emphasis was placed on women's sports, but in particular, volleyball-and 511 overall Division I victories in 28 years.

Her teams qualified for the OVC tournament a record 19 straight times.  She mentored 21 first- or second-team All-OVC selections, including a pair of OVC Players of the Year (Connie Caldwell, North 1987 and Isabel Canedo, 1992). She had nine players named to the All-Newcomer team and 10 to the OVC all-tourney team.

At retirement, she was ranked as one of the Top 30 active coaches in wins at the Division I level.

But as successful as her program proved to be on the court, it was more so off the court.  Her volleyball teams always were involved in community projects, whether it was conducting volleyball clinics, working the Special Olympics or Senior Games or delivering poinsettias to the elderly during the holidays.

Holt also gave more than lip service to academics. The Lady Govs volleyball team annually challenged for the department's highest grade-point average-a 3.0 grade-point average was the norm, not the exception. Twice her teams were honored by the American Volleyball Coaches Association for academic excellence. Canedo was a first-team CoSIDA Academic All-America selection and Holt boasted an OVC Scholar-Athlete (Canedo) and six OVC Medal of Honor recipients for owning the highest GPA in conference-sponsored sports.

As much of an impact she had on volleyball, she was a pioneer for the Lady Govs in another sport. When then-Athletics Director Bob Brooks asked her to give up her tennis coaching duties after 1985 it basically was a trade of sorts. Holt was requested to initiate the Lady Govs first softball program in 1986.

She coached the club for its first two seasons of existence, playing the games at Edith Pettus Park.

Last spring, Austin Peay renamed former Lady Govs Field to Cheryl Holt Field to honor not only her part in initiating the softball program but in elevating Lady Govs sports during her tenure.

To this day, Holt continues to serve APSU athletics. When Dave Loos was named athletics director in Summer 1997, he asked Holt to assume administrative duties, being named senior woman administrator.  In 2003, she assumed the role as assistant athletics director.

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