IRONTON — In the game of volleyball, accomplishing 1,000 kills in a career is always a big deal.
However, when a student-athlete becomes the first player in school history to accomplish such a feat, that only magnifies the significance of the accomplishment.
In a 3-1 victory over Ironton St. Joseph on Monday evening, New Boston’s Ali Hamilton showcased the very skills that have not only helped the Lady Tigers improve immensely as a volleyball program, but have made the senior one of the Southeast District’s brightest volleyball standouts by collecting 18 kills and four aces while eclipsing the 1,000-kill plateau in the fourth and final set of play against the Lady Flyers as New Boston collected a 25-11, 18-25, 25-11, 25-22 victory on Monday evening.
To accomplish that goal, however, it also takes a pretty impressive set of teammates. And with hands like Mariah Buckley, Kaylee Stone, and Brianna Humble among many other talented hands around her, Hamilton knows that she’s fortunate to play for the Red and White.
“I can’t thank my teammates enough,” Hamilton, who now has 1,004 kills for her career, said. “If it wasn’t for the pass from my awesome setter and best friend, Mariah Buckley, I’d never be able to reach that goal. It’s all because of her and the fantastic teammates that I am blessed to have.”
Still, coaching a strong student-athlete with the resume that Hamilton has is a pleasure for anybody. Just ask Kendra Holbrook, because she knows from experience both inside and outside of the volleyball realm.
“I love coaching Ali and just being around Ali, in general,” Holbrook said. “She deserves this. I’m super proud of her.”
From the get-go, Hamilton, along with Humble and Stone, proved to be on target throughout the duration of the match as the trio combined for 11 of New Boston’s final 19 points in the opening set of action — including six tallies during a 9-0 spurt that allowed New Boston to open up its early 10-7 advantage en route to winning by a 25-11 margin in the opening set of play.
“Kaylee and Madison each work extremely hard,” Holbrook said of Hamilton’s fellow senior classmates. “As a whole, the entire team works well together. They share the ball and they talk to each other. Great things happen when you play like a team and you play like a family, and that’s what we try to promote within our program.”
The match, however, didn’t come without adversity. Behind three kills from Humble — who had 11 kills and an ace on the evening — New Boston was able to jet out to an 11-6 advantage in the second set behind a 7-2 run. However, three attack errors from the Lady Tigers, along with four aces and a kill from Ashley Bartrum, allowed St. Joe to take an 18-12 lead behind a 12-1 run of its own. An attack error, a serving error, and a Bartrum kill kept the Lady Tigers from denting into the lead as Ironton St. Joseph tied the match at 1-1.
But with the match tied at a set aside, Hamilton came up large for New Boston from a leadership standpoint and a production standpoint.
The senior, who sat eight kills away from 1,000 entering the game’s third set, put together seven kills alone in the third frame, including two kills during a set-opening 6-0 run.
Then, after Ironton St. Joseph tied the set score at nine all, Hamilton and Stone teamed up to overwhelm the Lady Flyers as Stone’s three aces and a kill, along with three kills from Hamilton, allowed New Boston to take off on a 10-0 mark en route to an easy third set victory that gave the Lady Tigers a 2-1 match lead.
With Hamilton at 999 kills, however, the focus of the entire team went immediately to that subject — and rightfully so. In the second volley of the fourth set, Hamilton took a pass from Buckley on the left side of the court, leaped high in the air, and smacked the ball inside the left line for the 1,000th kill of her career.
“(Obtaining the 1,000th kill) felt great,” Hamilton said. “It really means a lot, especially considering that I’m the first student-athlete from New Boston to accomplish that goal.”
“We were prepared at Green if it happened there,” Holbrook said. “She had 13 kills, which is what she needed to start, and she got there. It’s wonderful.”
With Hamilton’s monumental milestone officially in hand, New Boston, who initially fell behind by a 5-1 tally to begin the third set, then got back to work behind the play of Stone.
The senior, who collected nine kills, seven aces, and a block on the evening, obtained four kills and a block during a 9-3 fourth-set run that gave New Boston a 12-9 advantage, and Hamilton followed by adding three kills and two aces of her own that allowed the Lady Tigers to go on a 7-3 spurt en route to a 19-13 advantage.
And even though Ironton St. Joseph obtained a 9-4 run to cut the deficit down to a 23-22 mark — a situation that, in the past, could have given New Boston trouble — that aforementioned tally proved to be as close as the Lady Flyers would come to obtaining the fourth set win, as a serving error, followed by a fitting kill from Hamilton that give New Boston the fourth set win, allowed the Lady Tigers to obtain the 3-1 match victory.
In Holbrook’s eyes, that’s just another sign of maturation from a unit that has greatly improved on results from past seasons.
“I was looking for us to move up in the SOC I standings,” Holbrook said. “That was my goal this year. In years past, New Boston has been fifth or sixth in the conference. To be third is a great improvement for us.”
With the victory, New Boston moved 11 games above the .500 mark. The Lady Tigers will get a second crack at SOC I Champion Notre Dame on Thursday evening at home.
But for now, the focus is on celebrating a young lady who has accomplished a great deal throughout her academic and athletic career as a New Boston Lady Tiger.
“It’s very rewarding,” Hamilton said of eclipsing the 1,000-kill mark. “Just to see all of the hard work and dedication that I’ve put in since I was little pay off means a lot.”