Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
KINNIKINNICK — With every swing at the net over the past three seasons, Alli Bennett has seemed to get mightier.
Her 5-foot-8 stature may not seem imposing, but watch her catch a volleyball on its sweet spot and you’ll quickly find that the bear is not to be poked.
After spending each of her first two years at Zane Trace in the shadows of older sister Evie, who led the team in kills, aces and digs during her senior season in 2018, Alli came into her own as a junior last fall.
After accepting the family volleyball torch with ease, Alli posted 247 kills and 34 aces — both team highs — alongside 354 digs and 311 assists. She was a central reason why the Pioneers managed to finish 15-10 overall and 7-7 in the always talent-filled Scioto Valley Conference.
With her last go-around in close proximity, Alli’s goals reach well beyond those numbers … for herself and for her team.
“My individual goal for this fall would be to get my 1,000th dig and for my team goal, we want to win the SVC,” Bennett said.
She’s just 192 digs away from 1,000 after turning in season totals of 203, 251 and 354. If the Pioneers are to win the SVC, it’d be the first time that’s happened since 2012.
Those two things can only happen, of course, if there’s a volleyball season in the first place.
While the OHSAA continues to state that fall sports will be business as usual, COVID-19 has produced a pattern of things changing by the day. But so far, for volleyball at least, so good.
“My teammates and I are working as hard as we can and hoping we get to play this year,” Bennett said. “To keep myself focused, I do my job and play like nothing else is on my mind. I couldn’t imagine not playing the sport that I love. I feel so bad for the seniors last year who couldn’t finish their careers.”
If Alli and her fellow returning seniors — Hannah Hale, Lexi Betts, Elizabeth Harber and Laynee Hill — are destined to finish their careers with a season without hitches, there’s a good chance they can do something special.
The team reached a Division III district title game last fall before a hard-fought four-set loss to Adena — one that featured a 35-33 final in the deciding set.
A year of experience has been added for each of the aforementioned names and the Pioneers have a talented crop of younger players who are expected to contribute on a nightly basis.
“I think our strongest attribute would be how close all of us are [off the court],” Bennett said. “That helps us communicate better on the court. This will be one of the best teams I’ve played on because we’re a well-rounded team. I think we will go far.”
How far? That has yet to be determined. But Alli and her teammates already have a formula in place to help them reach their goals.
“For us to win the SVC, we will need to be smart, fight, and we need to want it more than everyone else,” Bennett said. “It won’t be easy but I know we can do it if we work hard enough.”