Arab volleyball celebration

Karlli Walker celebrates with Sami Kate Hudson, left, and Bennett Elrod after her milestone kill.

For Karli Walker’s teammates, coaches and fans, her milestone 1,000th kill against Grissom last Thursday was a sight to see.

It was for Karli, too, as it came as a bit of a surprise.

Sitting at 989 kills entering the match, Karli didn’t know that – and no one told her. Coach Amy Hudson didn’t want her focusing on it.

“She knew she was close but didn’t know how close,” said her mother, Kristi Walker.

So, when she made her 1,000th kill, in the third set, Hudson raised her arms in celebration. The Arab crowd and Walker’s teammates went crazy. That’s when Walker knew she had her 1,000th career kill.

“Having 1,000 career kills is a big deal for any hitter, but perhaps even more so for Karli,” Hudson said after No. 6 Arab defeated Grissom 22-25, 25-18, 29-27, 25-19.

That’s because Walker has had a tough journey to her senior season.

One of the best volleyball players to compete at Arab, she’s always been ahead of the curve. As a seventh grader, she played on the eighth grade team. Her eighth grade season, she played on the JV team, until she was promoted to varsity near the end of the season.

That year, she had some playing time at the super regional and even played more in matches of the final four game, when AK Griggs was a senior.

Another Arab volleyball star was ready to step in and lead.

All was good until the fifth match of her sophomore season. In pregame warmups for a match against Guntersville on Aug. 27, 2020, Walker tore an ACL.

Her season was done.

Walker came back for her junior season, but she wasn’t the same player. Her knee injury had healed but there was scar tissue that prevented her from straightening her leg. She had to play with a brace. Eventually, she had a second knee surgery to remove what her doctor called a “cyclops lesion.”

Now she’s back and better than ever, according to Hudson. Through this past weekend, Walker has 198 kills, 40 blocks, 19 aces and 48 digs.

“She is back this season with a vengeance and making up for lost time,” Hudson said.

There is plenty of season left, and that includes the Marshall County Tournament at Supreme Courts in Warrenton on Tuesday. Still, Hudson is already dreading the day she’s no longer the coach of Walker and her senior teammates, Anna McFerrin, Heather Skelton and Mollie Bishop.

“If I let myself, I can get really sad at the thought of not having her next season, but I have to bring myself back to reality and remember how blessed I am to have coached her and be incredibly grateful for the time we have left,” Hudson said. “I just want to enjoy every minute of it.

“There are not many athletes that come along like Karli Walker. She is the whole package. She is a heck of a volleyball player and an even better person. She would make any coach proud, but she’s made this coach feel pretty special to have had the privilege of coaching her.

Also against Grissom, the JV team won 23-25, 25-18, 16-14.

On Tuesday, the winning continued for the Lady Knights. Playing at Cullman, they defeated Cull-man 25-16, 25-21 before beating Mortimer Jordan 25-11, 25-16.

The JV team won twice, too, defeating Cullman 25-15, 25-14 before knocking off Mortimer Jor-dan 25-9, 25-11.

Other stat leaders on the varsity, before Tuesday’s matches, include Laney Kelley, who has 143 kills, 28 blocks and 48 digs; and Bennett Elrod, who has 112 kills and five blocks.

Sydney Ferguson has 81 kills, 29 aces and 59 digs; Sami Kate Hudson has 92 kills, 26 aces and 196 digs; McFerrin has 590 assists, 110 digs, five blocks and 38 aces; and Marissa Pope has 209 digs, 12 assists and four kills.

On Saturday, Arab’s JV team won the Silver Bracket championship of the Boaz Tournament. The Lady Knights lost 0-2 to Jasper, then beat Corner (2-1), lost to Thompson (0-2), beat Glencoe (2-0) and New Hope (2-0).

• Arab Junior High

The eighth grade team won the Silver Bracket championship in the Hartselle Tournament on Saturday.

On Monday, the eighth grade team defeated Plainview 25-14, 25-15 before beating Athens 25-12, 25-9.

The seventh grade team defeated Plainview 25-14, 25-18 and also beat Athens 25-14, 24-26, 15-9.

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