UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the 26th time in program history, a Penn State Nittany Lions has eclipsed 1,000 career kills. Senior Ali Frantti is the newest addition to the club, reaching the landmark in the second set of last Saturday's final match of the West Virginia Tournament.
Frantti didn't become completely aware of her accomplishment until after the straight set victory was complete.
"I didn't realize I got it until my mom came up to me after the game," Frantti said. "She was like, 'Ali, that was your 1,000th kill', and I was like 'I didn't even know.' It was completely a shock. I had no idea."
Frantti needed only four kills to reach the magic number going into the West Virginia match, picking up her fourth kill on the final point of the second set.
For Penn State head coach Russ Rose, the milestone as an indication of how hard Frantti has worked in her time at Penn State to get to that point.
"What it means to us is that she's been a real steady performer," Ros said. "She was on the floor when we won a national championship when she was a freshman, she has battled some injuries throughout her career and has worked hard, and I'm happy that happened. I didn't know anything about it until I read it because we're really not about those things, but it's certainly a nice earned recognition for a real nice young person."
Rose has mentored some incredible talent in his program throughout his tenure, and he understands part of reaching such an accomplishment is being consistent every day. He even drew some similarities between Frantti's milestone and a few of his accomplishments in his own career.
"When you get certain milestones, those milestones are based on longevity," Rose said. "It's like coaching. If you coach for a long time and you have some success, you're going to win and get some plateaus that you might not get if you were doing something else."
Fellow senior Haleigh Washington knew something was up when she saw signs saying '1,000' in the stands, but she wasn't quite sure what they meant at first.
"The wRECking Crew came out to West Virginia and one of the girls had a poster that said '1,000,'" Washington said. "I was like, 'What are they talking about? Coach wins? Oh, it must be Frantti.' So I kind of got the pick up on Ali Frantti's 1,000th kill, so that was really cool to see and that's how I found out."
Washington and Frantti were both sophomores when former Nittany Lion Megan Courtney became the 25th Penn State Nittany Lion to tally her 1,000th career kill in 2015. Washington remembers how excited she felt for Courtney and experiencing that again with Frantti.
"I remember being so proud of Megan," Washington said. "It was just awesome to see [Ali] following in that tradition of success and excellence at Penn State. It was obviously amazing."
Keeping with another Penn State tradition, the Nittany Lions stayed focused on the result of the weekend, what was most important to them of course.
"Obviously it's not all about individual awards, but it's pretty cool that I'm one of 26 people," Frantti said. "Most importantly, I'm happy that our team got a 3-0 win this weekend."
Much like Rose said though, the level of focus during a match isn't met with any sort of thoughts about individual milestones or honors.
"We don't really focus on those kinds of things, we're not in the game thinking, 'Oh, this is what's going on, Ali's going to win this award,'" Washington said. "It's great that it happens, but when it comes down to it, it's about the win. It's about beating West Virginia because we need to beat West Virginia and get out of there. That's the mindset, and that's how you approach every game."
Penn State has already shifted its focus to this weekend, when steep challenges on the road at Texas A&M and against defending national champion Stanford await in Texas. A familiar non-conference opponent, Stanford bested the Nittany Lions last season, but this is a new year and with it, a new opportunity.
"It's always in the back of our heads, obviously, last year that wasn't the way we wanted to end it," Frantti said. "I think we came up short and we didn't perform to our standards. It's a new year, a new team, a new season and a fresh start. We're looking forward to playing them."
In Rose's mind, Frantti and the seniors helped start the season off in the right direction, but the biggest tests are still ahead, beginning with yet another road test Friday."You want to see how your team responds when somebody makes a run against them," Rose said. "We didn't have a lot of that over the weekend. We saw a couple of matches on TV of some other teams that are way further along right now than we are, and it just indicates how much harder everyone has to work to get better if you want to compete at the highest level."