A jittery, excited, undefeated Hart girls volleyball team stood outside the Saugus gym on Thursday evening, ready to take on the Centurions, their undefeated counterpart.
As the Indians straightened out their uniforms one final time before the match, one voice broke through the silence:
“That warm-up felt really good.”
It’s almost as if Hart instinctually knew it would win. Even in spite of a rocky first game, the Indians beat the Cents 3-1 to become the only undefeated team remaining in the league.
“To me, it means that we’re the most like, bonded people that I’ve ever met,” said Zoe DiNardo of her team’s flawless record. “I have so much fun with these girls on and off the court and I think it genuinely shows on the court.”
Saugus (14-7 overall, 4-1 in Foothill League) came out confident on its home court, charging ahead to a 9-5 lead. Hart (8-3, 4-0) went on a five-point run to tie it up to even it up, then the two teams went point-for-point.
Unable to build a substantial lead for the remainder of Game 1, the Centurions used solid passing to keep ahead and took the game 25-23 when an Indians hit went long.
“Just compete,” Saugus coach Zach Ambrose said. “We had to make sure our energy was high the whole time and really just compete all week and we did that in sets one and four.”
Hart changed its tune in the second frame. Wild, hard hits subsided in favor of control and composure. Back-to-back aces from Kylie Mattson gave the Indians a 10-4 lead and enough momentum to maintain the advantage for a 25-15 win.
Game 3 belonged to Megan Soto, who, even with a sprained finger, managed a trio of kills to put the Indians up 5-2. Shortly after, she knocked down two straight aces to make it 10-4.
A myriad of Indian kills took Saugus’ defense out of its system, then Soto capped the 25-10 win with a kill and a tip.
“I think that it went really well for all of us,” Soto said. “I’m able to do good because my team is really consistent and we can only have so many points with a good pass and a good set, so my success is all because of them.”
The Indians scored first in the fourth and final game, but Saugus tightened its grip as the stanza proceeded and was within three points or less of tying the game at multiple moments.
A Centurion hit that went wide and a serve that went long gave way for a deficit that the team couldn’t overcome. Hart took the game 25-21 on a kill from DiNardo.
“Against Saugus, they do really well with a lot of different things at different times,” said Indians coach Mary Irilian. “It could be digging, it could be serving aggressive, it could be attacking well. … They’re going to get their points, we have to stay composed and do what you do.”