NEW BOSTON — Momentum is nearly everything in volleyball.
After falling behind two sets to none in their home Southern Ohio Conference Division I game versus Western, the New Boston Lady Tigers needed to grasp hold of “The Big Mo” — and quickly.
The Lady Tigers managed to swing set three in their favor, claiming the game 25-15 to force a set four — and put the visiting Lady Indians on notice.
However, as Western made a mid-set push to reclaim momentum and its two-set lead, New Boston was unable to hold off their opponent’s attack in set four — falling to the Lady Indians 3-1 (25-20, 25-23, 15-25, 25-16).
First-year New Boston coach Ali Hamilton spoke to what she felt like her team could have done differently as that fourth set reached its tipping point — a New Boston timeout facing a 12-8 deficit.
“We finally woke up, our intensity that third set was there,” Hamilton said. “I told our senior, Shelby (Easter), to get the team fired up, and she did. I was really hoping they’d use that same momentum in the fourth set, but we just lost it. Little things, like the ball hitting the floor that took our momentum. Lot of things we have to keep working on — we’re young, only have one senior.”
Hamilton spent her playing days in the same positions on the same court in Homer Pellegrinon Gymnasium as she now sees her players in.
As an all-SOC I first-team middle hitter and 2018 graduate of Glenwood High School, Hamilton helped the Lady Tigers win back-to-back Division IV sectional titles during her junior and senior seasons in 2016 and 2017.
Hamilton is also the daughter of former New Boston coach Steve Hamilton, who was a 1989 graduate of Glenwood.
Now, Hamilton has followed in her father’s footsteps and put on her coaching hat in her first role at the varsity level — an experience she’s still growing accustomed to.
“I was a middle hitter, and now it’s totally different from my perspective now as a coach — seeing all the different things that go into the game,” Hamilton said. “It’s really hard for me to watch my girls at the net struggle because I want to go out there and play for them, tell them in my words how I did it.”
In Tuesday’s four-set loss to Western, the Lady Tigers were led offensively by senior Shelby Easter’s team-high 12 kills and five digs.
Dylan O’Rourke had 10 kills and six digs, Kenzie Whitley added seven kills and eight digs, and Jadelyn Lawson had a team-high 15 assists for New Boston.
Easter, a first-team and second-team all-SOC middle hitter during her sophomore and junior seasons, respectively, is the lone senior on this year’s Lady Tigers roster.
After the graduation of three key seniors from their 2019 team, Easter and Whitley shoulder most of the returning varsity playing experience the Lady Tigers have.
Hamilton said returning someone with Easter’s experience in her first season as coach is like having a second coach already on the court.
“It’s really nice to have a leader like that,” Hamilton said. “I can ask her what she thinks I’m doing wrong, what she thinks we need to do as a team. She’s a really good leader — she’s like a coach on the floor me.”
Prior to the start of the season, there were doubts on what or even if the fall sports season might happen or look like.
A month after its beginning, and fingers crossed, Hamilton and the Lady Tigers are still playing games.
While that could certainly change with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Hamilton said she’s blessed to be able to coach her team through their first month of matches.
“I’m grateful, pretty blessed that we actually get to play and that I’m able to coach these girls,” Hamilton said. “Coaching means the world to me, so I want to thank the school for allowing me to do it.”
New Boston, now sporting a 4-6 record, will finish its week seeking a road win at Symmes Valley on Thursday.
For her team to grow, improve, and seek its first sectional title since her senior season, Hamilton says there are still things she would like to see in hopes of furthering those goals.
“We’re going to work on getting our passes, setting the ball where it needs to go and working at the net,” Hamilton said. “Blocking, hitting, snapping our wrists. Once we get those worked out, I think hopefully the second half of the season we’ll be improved and get some more wins than losses.”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved