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Holly McPeak

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Full name  Holly McPeak
Height  1.70 m
Nationality  United States
Weight  62 kg
Name  Holly McPeak
Spouse  Leonard Armato
Role  Beach Volleyball Player

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Born  May 15, 1969 (age 52) Manhattan Beach, California, U.S. (1969-05-15)
Hometown  Manhattan Beach, California, U.S.
Olympic medals  Beach volleyball at the 2000 Summer Olympics – Women's tournament
Education  University of California, Los Angeles, University of California, Berkeley
Similar People  Elaine Youngs, Misty May‑Treanor, Nancy Reno, Barbra Fontana, Shelda Bede

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Holly McPeak (born May 15, 1969 in Manhattan Beach, California) is a retired American beach volleyball player.


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A three-time Olympian, McPeak garnered 72 career beach volleyball titles with career earnings of $1.4 million USD. She is third in titles won (behind Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh) and second in career earnings (behind May-Treanor) for female professional beach volleyball players. She won a bronze medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics with partner Elaine Youngs. Though McPeak was considered short for a beach volleyball player at 5 feet 7 inches in height, she was one of the toughest players to beat on the tour.

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Early life and college career

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McPeak was born and raised in Manhattan Beach, California. She attended Mira Costa High School. While there she was a member of two CIF 5-A champion volleyball teams. During her junior year, in 1985, the Mustangs went undefeated (29-0) en route to winning the state championship. In 1986 Mira Costa again went undefeated through the regular season and reached the championship match before losing in the finals. The team finished with a 23-1 mark. Mira Costa head coach Dae Lea Aldrich, who had led the Mustangs to three state championships, two No. 1 national rankings, eight CIF titles and two state finals over a ten year period, offered the following on McPeak: "She's a workaholic. She's a great athlete who will do anything you ask, and she'll do it twice as hard. She's the girl that does the extra mile and the extra lifting in the off season." McPeak was a three-time All-Ocean League and All-Southern Section setter at Mira Costa. Though only 5'7", coming out of high school she was one of the most heavily recruited players in the country. She had led her high school team to a pair of state championships and a 52-1 record over her last two seasons. Volleyball Monthly magazine called her "the most coveted setter in the country." Among McPeak's top choices were scholarship offers from the UCLA Bruins and the Golden Bears of the University of California, Berkeley.

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McPeak chose to attend college at the University of California for its academic excellence. At Cal McPeak led the Golden Bears to three playoff berths and was named Pacific 10 Conference freshman of the year in 1987. Cal lost to UCLA in the first round of the NCAA playoffs in McPeak's freshman and sophomore years. At the conclusion of McPeak's freshman year Cal head coach Marlene Piper moved to teach and coach at UC Davis, and was replaced by Dave DeGroot. The coaching change was problematic for the intense McPeak, who found DeGroot unwilling to push the team hard. For his part DeGroot was not happy with how McPeak was setting the team, and was angry with her. "Holly is definitely a competitor. She's not one to lose. She always plays to win, whether its a drill, a scrimmage or a game." said fellow Bear Lisa Arce, a teammate of McPeak's both at Mira Costa and at Berkeley. McPeak continued to play for Cal through her junior year before the coaching conflict escalated to the point of an impasse. Following McPeak's junior season in 1989 DeGroot banned her from the team. She could continue on under scholarship at Berkeley, but she no longer was allowed to practice or play.

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McPeak believed her college career was over and had resigned herself to focusing on her academics, when a teammate encouraged her to consider transferring. Pacific-10 conference policy required a transferring athlete to sit out two years before they can compete at another conference school. She spoke with UCLA head coach Andy Banachowski, who noted McPeak was in a special circumstance, as her scholarship school had banned her from further participation. McPeak challenged the policy in order to play her final season with the Bruins. To win the appeal McPeak's case had to be approved by faculty athletic representatives from each of the league's 10 institutions. With Banachowski's help she succeeded in gaining the support of representatives of all 10 conference schools, including those from the University of California at Berkeley, who voted unanimously to waive the transfer rule.

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In joining UCLA for her senior season, McPeak was joining one of the top programs in the nation. However the Bruins had fallen short of their goals, losing in the semis in each of the previous two seasons. Once there, McPeak had a near immediate impact. She earned a starting spot early in the year, beating out junior setter Jennifer Gratteau. By then, McPeak had already broken a UCLA set assist record with 97 assists against Stanford. Said Banachowski "We were very good last year with Jennifer, but we finally made the decision to go with Holly because she added a lot more quickness. Everybody seemed to play at a quicker pace when Holly was in there." DeGroot witnessed this for himself during Cals two losses to the Bruins during the 1990 regular season.

McPeak helped the 1990 UCLA Bruins to win the NCAA collegiate championship. It was the school's fifth of seven national titles. She was selected first team All-Pac-10 and first team All-Tournament. She set the single season assist record of 2,192 assists, and also set the single match assist mark of 97 assists. Said coach Banachowski "We wanted McPeak out of high school because she was a tremendous athlete. I only wish I had had her for the three years instead of the one. Besides being a great athlete, she's quick and very competitive."

The following year McPeak served as an assistant coach for Banachowski, whose Bruins repeated as national champions. Soon thereafter McPeak became intensely involved in professional beach volleyball, but did graduate from UCLA in 1995 with a degree in English.

Career in beach volleyball

She grew up at Marine street, and followed local teams such as Jim Menges and Matt Gage, Mike Dodd and Tim Hovland, and later Karch Kiraly and Sinjin Smith. After graduating high school in 1987, McPeak made her pro beach volleyball debut at the age of 18, partnering with Jill Horning at the WPVA “Miller Lite Open” in Santa Monica. Horning had been a year ahead of McPeak at Mira Costa High. The team scored a ninth place finish, an accomplishment the young rookies repeated later that summer in the pair's second professional tournament. Following McPeak's freshman year at Cal she and Horning partnered again for two more pro beach volleyball tournaments, again finishing ninth each time.

McPeak was named the WPVA’s Rookie of the Year in 1991, but it was not until 1993 at the Phoenix Open that she would win her first tournament. She would win 11 tournaments that year, eight of them with Cammy Ciarelli.

At the 1996 Summer Olympics, McPeak teamed up with Nancy Reno, but they finished in fifth place with a 2 - 2 record. This was right behind the American team of Barbra Fontana and Linda Hanley, which lost the bronze-medal game and finished fourth. Fontana and Hanley had defeated McPeak and Reno in face-to-face competition in this double-elimination tournament, thus eliminating McPeak and Reno and sending them to fifth place.

McPeak returned to the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, this time teaming with Misty May in her first Olympic games. They finished in fifth place.

Four years later at the 2004 Summer Olympics McPeak teamed with Elaine Youngs. The pair reached the semifinals where they met McPeak's former partner Misty May, and her new partner Kerri Walsh. May and Walsh won the match, sending McPeak and Youngs to the bronze medal match, where they faced Australians Natalie Cook and Nicole Sanderson. McPeak and Youngs won to earn their first Olympic medal.

During the 2005 season, McPeak teamed up with Jennifer Kessy and with Nicole Branagh for the 2006 season. After Branagh left to partner with Elaine Youngs, McPeak partnered with indoor volleyball player Logan Tom for the 2007 AVP season. She then partnered with Angie Akers.

McPeak was planning to retire after the 2008 AVP season, but decided to continue for the 2009 season. After three-straight ninth-place finishes in her first three AVP events of the season, she retired for good on May 6, 2009, a week shy of her 40th birthday.

McPeak's career in professional beach volleyball spanned over twenty years. She ranked in the top 10 six times on the AVP Tour and seven times on the FIVB Tour. She was the first woman to break one million dollars in earnings. She won titles with seven different partners. McPeak is one of just five women worldwide to have competed in the first three Olympics in beach volleyball.

Player profile

McPeak was a quick and highly competitive athlete. A 5-foot-7 defensive specialist, she was a hard worker and was known for her intense off-court training regimen. She could consistently side out, scoring with placement more frequently than power. She preferred playing on the larger courts of the earlier years, where player height was at less of a premium. She had a long career, and had at least one career victory every year from 1993 to 2004, with the exception of 1998, when there was no women's domestic tour. She states she came to realize she could win with any partner, and once she made that realization her confidence increased. McPeak states her toughest opponents were Kerri Walsh and Misty May. "They just drove me crazy, and to this day they still do."

Broadcast career

Since retiring from beach volleyball, McPeak works as a color commentator for Pac-10 volleyball shown on Fox Sports West, including most televised games of UCLA. She also does color for SEC coverage on the SEC Network.

In 2014, McPeak served as a sand volleyball game analyst for Pac-12 Network.


McPeak is married to former AVP commissioner Leonard Armato. She has a twin brother (Gary), and a sister (Katie).

Awards and honors

At UCLA in 1990 she was selected first-team All-Pacific-10, first-team All-Pacific Region and first-team All-NCAA Tournament.

On October 30, 2009, McPeak was inducted into Volleyball Hall of Fame.


Holly McPeak Wikipedia