Hollis Brookline volleyball seniors have eye on grand finale
You see all the whopping numbers – Maddie Norris and her 758 career kills, Kyra Belden’s 1,000-plus career assists and Liz Atkinson ringing up 500 kills of her own.
All the victories, including an active streak at 51 heading into this week’s Division I state playoffs.
For the seven seniors on the Hollis Brookline High School volleyball team there is little left to prove. And that’s what will make the next 10 days so darn amazing. The Cavaliers are playing for immortality, looking to go 4 for 4 when it comes to state championships. Imagine playing four seasons and winning your last game in every one. It could happen, and if it does, it won’t be by accident.
Becky Balfour, the only coach this program has known, understands just how special this crew is. It’s been said before. Hollis Brookline volleyball under Balfour now belongs among the amazing girls dynasties in Granite State history. If you’re looking for a Mount Rushmore, you go the John Fagula-led Nashua High girls hoop teams of the 1980s, Harold Sachs’ Salem softball teams of the 1990s and these current Cavaliers.
It’s easy to see how with these seven seniors. All brings a unique trait to the table, individuals so adept in working as one.
It starts with Norris, the reigning Gatorade State Player of the Year.
“Her serves are lethal and she is one of the best passers on our team,” said Balfour of the Division I University of North Florida commit.
But power and skill only scratch the surface for Norris. Watch when things get tense for the Cavs in the upcoming run. They always find her.
If it’s not Norris, it’s Atkinson providing the heat. Atkinson first stepped into the Balfour fold in the third grade.
Atkinson, like Norris, has impacted at the varsity level for four years but took it one season further last winter as she helped the Cavs’ girls hoop team to the school’s first state title since the 1960s.
Someone has to get the heavy hitters the rock, and that someone is a player Balfour called “one of the best” she’s had in the Assumption-bound Belden.
Watch Belden’s defense, too. It’s where she got her start back as a freshman and sophomore. And it’s rock solid.
Middle hitter Natalie Cook got her start at the U12 level and has never looked back. A late varsity call-up as a freshman, Cook has shared in the three state titles.
Like Atkinson, Brodie Kelley played huge last winter in the hoop team’s run to glory, actually captaining the squad. She plays all three spots up front in volleyball, wherever and whenver the need arises.
Few in the program have come farther and faster than Ashley Burtt and Amanda Elvins.
“Ashley is one of the fastest blockers we have and is a very dynamic player,” said Balfour. “She worked year round to improve her skills and it has paid off.”
Burtt picked up the game in eight grade and worked through the JV system. These days, she’s looking to play the game in college.
And so is Elvins, much to the surprise of many.
“Amanda moved to Hollis just before she started high school,” said Balfour. “Amanda initially thought about playing soccer but decided she did not like the prospects of running up and down the field in the hot, summer sun.
“Amanda has spent the least amount of time, of all the seniors, playing volleyball and has made huge strides over her four-year career.”
So yeah, the foundation for one final run looks pretty solid.
“It doesn’t just happen either,” explained Norris back in the heat of late August.
If it does, on Saturday, Nov. 3 at Pinkerton Academy, at least now we all understand why.