Heading into its first Foothill League match of the season on Thursday, Valencia boys volleyball coach Kevin Kornegay wasn’t sure what to expect from his team.
Starting outside hitter Jackson Young was out with Tendinitis, which had caused the Vikings to shuffle the lineup ahead of their matchup against a scrappy Hart team. On top of that, Valencia hadn’t played a match in nearly a week.
However, the Vikes had several players rise to the occasion as it beat the Indians 3-1 at Hart.
“We were really concerned because we juggled our lineup and we knew (Hart) had played West Ranch tough on Tuesday,” Kornegay said. “…So I’m happy how we played and we looked really good.”
Valencia (4-6 overall, 1-0 in Foothill League) started off with a 25-20 win in Game 1 as starting middles Dorian Ellis and Connor Ruffner started to heat up.
The pair helped the Vikings to a 25-22 win in the second game. Ellis reached for several key tips in the frame and had the game-winning kill.
Ellis finished the game with nine kills and four blocks while Ruffner had 13 kills.
“We had some key serving targets so that we could keep the ball pushed off the net,” said Hart coach Jeannie Brauninger. “If the ball is not on the net, they can’t win the middles, so we try and make sure that we can keep them on their toes so they couldn’t win the middle as often as we’ve seen them do.”
The Indians (5-7-1, 0-2) came back in the third game, going point-for-point with Valencia. Wyatt Bates executed a kill, then an ace, then another kill to give Hart a 14-12 lead that boosted the team to a 25-22 win.
“I saw drive,” said Brauninger. “I saw the drive to want to be successful. So when they play like that, they’re unstoppable.”
Even without Young, Valencia’s pins were able to work seamlessly to close out Game 4. Cameron Graves, who filled in for Young, had the game-winning kill in the 25-20 win.
David Chun was also key with 25 digs and six kills.
“It feels amazing,” said Ellis of his team’s league-opening win. “Hopefully we can carry on this win into league and take over league.”