Over the last few seasons, the success of IUP women’s basketball has seemed to revolve around a core of star players.
However, anyone will tell you that in a team sport, everyone plays an important role in success.
That’s where players like Ana Hollen (senior, exercise science) come in.
Spending three years as a Crimson Hawk, Hollen came out of Bellwood-Antis High School, not far from Indiana.
“I had a lot of PSAC schools [interested] and some interest in some lower Division I schools,” Hollen said. “It was nice I got to stay close to home and get a scholarship to keep playing basketball out of high school.”
Hollen spent her freshman year at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown (UPJ), starting all but one game that season as a Mountain Cat.
“I had a really good high school career, and that gave me confidence my first year in the PSAC,” Hollen said. “The game was faster, and girls were stronger, so I really had to work on finishing and making smart plays.”
She came to IUP despite the wealth of playing time and success at UPJ. Hollen was third in scoring that season at UPJ, but coming to IUP offered a wealth of advantages, both academically and athletically.
She switched from biology, pre-med to exercise science to pursue a career in physical therapy.
“Also, IUP was the top school in the conference, and I wanted to elevate my game as well as put myself in a position to win championships,” Hollen said.
Hollen became a vital piece off the bench for the Crimson Hawks immediately, playing in 29 games her first season at IUP and 11 in her junior season, averaging around 3 points per game before suffering a torn ACL that January.
The recovery from that injury was quite a challenge, with Hollen having to adjust her game in the process, evolving into a better shooter rather than just making it to the rim.
“It was a long recovery, and even a year later I’m still not the same,” Hollen said. “I came back by taking it one step at a time.”
“Rehab became an everyday thing, and I had to push through physical and mental barriers to get back on the floor,” Hollen said. “It was a lot of work and trying to get my quickness and skills back.”
This season was perhaps Hollen’s best yet, starting six games and playing in 28, averaging a .397 field goal percentage, .417 three-point percentage and making more than half her free throws.
Being a part of a team that made the national Final Four in consecutive years was something special, Hollen said.
“It’s definitely something to always remember,” she said. “My team was the best team in IUP history, and to look at the two Final Four banners in the KCAC and know I was a part of that team is pretty cool.”
In a career filled with highs, the lows of being unable to make it to the national championship ironically resulted in Hollen’s favorite memory.
“After we had lost, we came into the locker room and had our meeting. Our teammates then dispersed to do media and see their families. But Kendall [Hunter], Britt [Robinson] and I went into the locker room and found this thing like a disco ball.
“We plugged it in, turned up the speaker and texted the team to meet back in the locker room. In a moment of tears and sadness that our season and some of our careers were over, we all came together and sang and danced in the locker room one last time. It’s something I’ll always remember, that in a time of pain, we came together and got each other through it.”
Hollen will now head to the University of Pittsburgh to begin work on a doctorate program in physical therapy, which she expects to complete in 2022.
“Basketball shaped me into the person I am today,” Hollen said. “I can effectively work in a team setting, I’m disciplined, hard working, adaptable, and tearing my ACL gave me a different perspective of things. I can be more empathetic with my patients one day and understand what they are going through and that will make me a better physical therapist.”