Hart boys volleyball on the verge of history

Hart's Wyatt Bates (1) tries to go for a kill over Canyon's Aaron Berko (9) and Fabian Ruiz (24) at Canyon on Tuesday, March 27, 2018. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal

In between high-fives with the opposing team and the start of the match, the Hart boys volleyball team gathers for the same pregame chant that’s been repeated for the last four seasons:

“Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme. Come on guys, it’s volleyball time.”

“Our freshman year, a sophomore named Michael Weismann came up with it and it’s the funniest thing,” said outside hitter Wyatt Bates. “(He) just tried to get us hyped for game time and it’s worked.”

Whether it’s the chant that’s working magic or something else altogether, the Indians seemed to have found their rhythm.

On Saturday night, Hart claimed their first playoff win in program history in their first playoff appearance since 2013, beating Millikan 3-1 in a CIF-Southern Section Division 2 wild-card match.

MORE: Valencia boys volleyball makes playoff push with win against Saugus

“It’s awesome,” said senior Dylan Lange. “I’ve been on varsity for three years and each year we get closer and closer to playoffs and this year we actually made it.”

The uncharted territory of the postseason has brought with it a new set of challenges for the Indians (14-13-1). For one, there is a lot more film.

Coaches and players comb YouTube for clips of opposing teams and players, then share them with the team.

Practices, which have been held in Hart’s auxiliary gym due to AP testing in the main gym, feature an increased amount of game-situation drills and scrimmages.

“Just make sure I’m ready for anything, any type of player, type of team, just visualize what I need to do,” Lange said of the difference in playoff preparations.

Throughout this season, Hart has relied on its front line to put the ball away. Bates leads the team with 240 kills and 28 aces on the season, followed by Gavin Leising with 129 and Lange with 115.

The Indians have a scrappy mindset to match.

“We’re not going to give up on a point just because things aren’t going our way,” Bates said. “We’re going to work for every point so that we can just win.”

Hart will play Hillcrest of Riverside (16-2) today in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 2 tournament.

The Trojans are the undefeated champions of the Big VIII League and boast an overall record of 16-2.

“Just to go as far as we can,” Bates said of the team’s playoff goals. “If we can make it all the way to the finals, that would be great and make school history, that’s for sure.

“Just to make a difference in this program for the past five years would be amazing.”

NOTES – West Ranch boys volleyball (26-5) will host Beckman of Irvine (23-9) today at 5 p.m. Valencia (22-11) will travel to Bishop Diego (13-7) today for a 6 p.m. matchup.

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