Growing up with the game
Sydney’s journey to UNC began in Baltimore where she says she grew up with a lacrosse stick in her hands.
“It was always lacrosse,” she said.
Her father reasoned that for most kids in the mid-Atlantic, lacrosse was the only sport that mattered. But for Sydney, the influence came predominantly from her family, which was all about lacrosse all of the time.
She watched games with her brothers at Johns Hopkins, her father’s alma mater, and followed her dad to their recreational games, standing by him on the sideline while he coached.
Her brothers also played with her on a mini-lacrosse field in the backyard and “got her tougher” while she was playing on a recreational team coached by her mom.
“One of the things that we were always pretty adamant about was to play (lacrosse) because you love it,” Brian said, “not just because everyone else is playing it.”
One thing was for sure — all of the Holmans loved it.
Soon enough, their love for the sport brought the entire family to Chapel Hill.
For Brian, it was an opportunity to return to the sport he loved through an open coaching position with North Carolina’s men’s team.
Marcus, who was looking for a place to begin his college lacrosse career, fell in love with UNC as soon as he visited for the first time.
“To be honest, Chapel Hill just lured me in,” Marcus said. “I remember driving home with my family, and in my heart, I just knew it was the place I wanted to be.”
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For Sydney, the move was a big change.
An easy decision
Sydney was just about to start high school and knew no one in Chapel Hill. The weather was nicer, but the local lacrosse atmosphere was not up to the level that she had grown used to in the north.
Overcoming the differences taught her patience, she said, and she soon warmed up to the town and Marcus’s new school.
“I became closely acquainted with Fetzer (Field) from the stands, which made me appreciate it a lot more when I got to step on the field the first time,” Sydney said. “That was probably one of the best days yet.”
Her play on the high school field all but guaranteed that one day Fetzer Field would be her second home.
Sydney’s lacrosse resume at East Chapel Hill High was endless, including three-time All-American status, four-time team MVP, a state championship, a state record for career goals and many more accolades.
When the time came for her to make her own college decision, Chapel Hill was first on her list, but her family encouraged her to look around at other schools to make an informed decision.
“She did that for a little bit,” Brian said. “But then she was like, ‘This is a joke. I want to be a Tar Heel.’”
Sydney looked at Florida, but while she was visiting, all she could think about was the UNC campus, the coaches and the lacrosse program. She committed to UNC as soon as she returned.
“I think she made the right decision,” Brian said. “That’s for darn sure.”
For Brian and Laurie, the addition of their daughter to the Carolina family they had come to know and love was like a dream come true.
“I think every day Brian and I pinch ourselves,” Laurie said. “We’ve been very blessed.”
Building her own legacy
More than two years after her commitment, Sydney is now in the last half of her first season, and the experience is living up to the hype.
“It has been the best year of my life so far,” she said. “Just being a part of a bigger family of 36 other sisters has really been amazing.”
Her teammates likely enjoy having her as part of the family as well. Earlier in the season against Vanderbilt, Sydney got everyone involved and tied the school record for assists in a game with six.
“We always preached to the kids ... Make everyone around you look better and you’ll be successful,” her mother said.
Marcus made a point of insisting on just how successful his sister can be.
“I’m a proud older brother,” he said. “I like to brag about Syd a little bit. I’ve always said she has the most athletic genes in the family.
“People around Chapel Hill have started saying to me, ‘You better be ready, your sister’s going to break your points record.’ And I say, ‘Yeah, she probably will.’”
Marcus set a high standard for his sister and pushes her to be the best she can be. But her only goal right now is to do something that no Holman has done since her father in 1980: win a national championship.
With her family cheering her on from the sideline and her sisters on the field, Sydney said she believes that she and the Tar Heels have what it takes to repeat last year’s title.
As far as the future of her own legacy, Sydney isn’t looking too far ahead. She just feels lucky to be where she is now.
“Traveling to other schools this year has reinforced how lucky I am to be able to attend North Carolina and play lacrosse here,” she said. “We went up to Harvard and Boston College the other day, and it’s freezing cold up there. I just remember thinking, ‘Wow, I would much rather be on Fetzer Field right now.’”