Ally Duncan was the last person in the Butler High School gymnasium to know a celebration was about to unfold.
Apparently, Catholic Central’s tight-lipped volleyball community knows how to keep a secret.
“She had absolutely no clue it was about to happen,” Irish coach Stacey Derr-Webster said with mischievous chuckle.
Just seconds after Duncan, a heavily recruited, 5-foot-11 middle and outside hitter, drilled her seventh kill of the evening into Butler floorboards, Central fans rose to applaud the 1,000th kill of her stellar Irish career.
“The whole crowd stood up and cheered. It was a really great thing for her and she was very humble and surprised by it all when it happened,” said Derr-Webster, who shared 2013 Clark County co-coach of the year honors with Lori Saunders of Kenton Ridge.
“It’s been a long time coming for me, having watched Ally grow up in my gym from the age of two.”
Duncan finished with 14 kills, eight blocks and nine digs in Central’s 25-12, 25-8, 25-15 season-opening road win Monday against the Division I Aviators, bringing her career kill total to 1,007 with ample matches remaining.
“It’s just a ton of kills,” Derr-Webster said. “It just goes to show you: ‘It’s unbelievable what you can do.’ ”
The senior standout was named first-team, All-Ohio, first-team, All-County and Ohio Heritage Conference Player of the Year during last season’s school-record 23-2 run and has verbally committed to play at D-II Findlay.
She joins senior middle hitter Stephanie Lohnes (five kills, eight digs) and junior setter Lauren Hoendorf (28 assists, four aces, eight digs) on a loaded squad seeking its third-straight, undefeated league championship.
“There’s a lot of pressure there for the girls. Their expectations are high. We’ve lost only one starter,” Derr-Webster said, referring to 6-0 middle hitter Chloe Brandewie, now at D-III Muskingum.
“There are huge expectations for me as well. Yes, it’s a different dynamic, taking a main player (like Brandewie) out of your lineup. But we’ve still got a load of main players who know how to perform well.”
Adding depth are senior outside hitter Kellie O’Connor, junior defensive specialist and outside hitter Madeline Stewart, and sophomore defensive specialist and setter Annie Burns. All return to an Irish squad that, for the past two years, has swept through the OHC unscathed at 14-0.
“There’s kind of always been a bull’s-eye on their backs,” said Derr-Webster, named D-IV District 9 Coach of the Year last fall.
“You’re going in there with the expectation of trying to be undefeated and we don’t always play up to par. We have to always be ‘on.’ The seniors have that expectation that they’re going to finish out their last year here with big goals to accomplish.”