JACKSON — When a group of seniors lays the foundation for future success in multiple areas, and puts their hearts out on the line in doing so, it can be tough to say goodbye.
But as the cliche goes, everything comes to an end eventually.
For the New Boston Tigers’ volleyball program, that end happened to be on Thursday evening, as New Boston fell to Federal Hocking by a 3-0 count (25-17, 25-16, 25-18) in a competitive Division IV District Semifinal matchup on Thursday evening at Jackson High School.
For Kendra Holbrook, the loss to the Lady Lancers was certainly painful. However, it takes nothing away from what the Lady Tigers have done over the past two seasons of play.
“We have a tendency to get to Jackson and sometimes, we come up short and don’t do exactly what we need to do in order to get the win,” Holbrook said. “However, we did have a lot of great moments, and I’m super proud of my girls. They’re taking this loss pretty hard. A lot of the seniors didn’t want this season to end like this, but I’m super proud of them. Just being here is an honor for us. We are such a small school. To be here is just an honor.”
During the first set of action, New Boston struggled over the initial 20 volleys as Federal Hocking opened up a gap on the Lady Tigers by scoring 14 of the first 20 points in the set. However, New Boston showed grit and toughness of its own in not only refusing to roll over, but rallying back from the initial hole, as consecutive aces from Lexus Oiler and a kill by Kaylee Stone allowed the Lady Tigers to cut a 14-6 Lady Lancer lead down to 20-15 late in the first set. But a 5-2 run from Federal Hocking, spearheaded by a kill and an ace from Brittnie Jackson, proved to be too much to overcome for New Boston as the Lady Lancers took the first set by a 25-17 tally.
In the second frame of play, New Boston started out fast as the Lady Tigers utilized three Bri Humble kills and an ace to take a 6-3 advantage as the second set got underway.
Unfortunately, a 6-0 run by Federal Hocking immediately following the set-opening 6-3 spurt from New Boston put the Lady Lancers in a hole, and despite four kills from Stone that cut the Lady Lancer lead to a 15-14 margin, Federal Hocking, behind four kills from Jaylen Rogers, used a 10-2 run to close out the second frame in its favor.
“When we jump out, we jump out,” Holbrook said of her team’s offense. “That’s what I keep telling my girls. When we get that pass up there and get that set on the net, we’re pretty hard to stop. I just don’t think that we were getting our passes up there like we should, so therefore, our set wasn’t what we needed. The hitters worked hard to get the ball, but when you face a team like Federal Hocking, your sets and your moves have to be perfect. Every set and every move has to be perfect to make it work.”
However, Ali Hamilton wasn’t about to let New Boston go down without a fight. The senior, who collected 12 kills, a block, and an ace in her final affair as a Lady Tiger, scored five points (four kills and a block) during a 6-0 spurt — the other tally coming via an ace by Morgan Rawlins — to put New Boston out ahead in commanding fashion.
“Ali just didn’t want to lose,” Holbrook said. “She’s one of the ones who is taking it the hardest. Her heart’s in volleyball.”
But behind three consecutive aces from Hannah Dunfee, Federal Hocking again rallied as the Lady Lancers took five of the next six points to cut the lead to an 8-5 margin. Hamilton, who added three additional kills and an ace in the set, did all she could to keep the Lady Tigers out in front, but after maintaining a 14-13 advantage through 27 volleys, Jackson and Rogers took over by combining for four kills during a 12-4 run that put the game out of reach for New Boston.
”We kept getting our hands on the ball, but we weren’t in the right positions to take the ball to the net,” Holbrook said. “It would fly off the other way, and when a ball’s hit that hard, it’s hard to get it in the correct position. Just getting there and getting a hand on the ball, sometimes, is all we could do.”
With its season at an end, New Boston will have to say farewell to the six hands that helped make its unit a success — Hamilton, Humble, Stone, Mariah Buckley, Ashley Farney, and McKenzie Gunter. Together, each member of the senior class were part of a program that went 35-12 over the last two years with two consecutive trips to the district tournament, including an 18-5 overall mark in 2017 — a vast improvement from where the program was in 2014, when the program won five affairs total.
“I don’t think anybody underestimated us,” Holbrook said. “We definitely knew that we were ready to compete, so I believe that our opponents knew what we had to offer. We’re really going to miss the six seniors that put their hearts out on the line for us. At the same time, we’ve got girls on our roster who will work just as hard, and they’re making gains with the improvement that they’ve shown in every practice and every game. I still look for us to be big next year.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT