Prior to the start of each individual game, Hart girls volleyball has a ritual. Libero Noelle Blumel air-dribbles a make-believe basketball, then shoots it through a hoop formed by an outside hitter’s arms.
The reaction to the shot from the team and the student section is so dramatic, you’d think Kobe himself was in the gym draining 3’s.
“We just do it every time and it’s like our good luck routine,” said Shelby Grubbs.
The Indians had way bigger things to celebrate than imaginary 3-pointers on Thursday when they swept Valencia in the Vikings’ home gym. It was the first time in 13 years that Hart won in Valencia’s gym.
“It’s always been either a mental issue or an emotional issue,” said Hart girls coach Mary Irilian. “We’ve gotten to five before, but the girls knew the history of this and they wanted to be the ones to end it and win in their gym and I guess the icing on the cake is beating them in three.”
In a battle of the defending co-league champions, Hart sweeps Valencia to open its season. Indians with a massive block to win the third set 25-14. pic.twitter.com/UgLNpfiypy— Haley Sawyer (@haleymsawyer) September 7, 2018
The co-defending Foothill League champions went point-for-point in the first game until the Indians (5-1 overall, 1-0 in Foothill League) took a 16-15 lead on a Zoe DiNardo kill and never looked back. Shelby Grubbs sealed a win with a block, her first of seven on the night.
“Blocking is a huge part of our game, especially for making our defenders’ jobs easier,” Grubbs said. “I think we have some of the best, if not the best, defenders and I think that’s a tribute to our blockers always taking away the right area.”
Hart scored first in the second game and steadily put points on the board to mount an eventual four-point lead at 14-10. The Vikings (2-10, 0-2) were able to manage to force a few Indian errors, but were unable to get ahead. Hart took the game 25-18.
Grubbs opened up Game 3 with a kill, then the Indians went on a six-point scoring spree that included four consecutive aces from Megan Soto shortly after. Valencia came within one point of tying the game with an ace from Kaelyn White, but Hart scored five points immediately after to take control once again.
Hart won the final game 25-14 thanks to a block from Ruby Duncan and Kylie Mattson.
“We have to get better. It sounds silly, but that’s really it,” said Valencia coach Ray Sanchez. “There’s not any one thing that went wrong tonight … So we’ll come to practice tomorrow and we’ll work hard and we’ll get better.”
Abby Sherman led the Vikings with 17 digs and Jaela Bernard had five kills.
For the Indians, DiNardo logged a team-high 13 kills, followed by Duncan with nine. Soto had seven kills and four aces. Grubbs recorded five kills in addition to her seven blocks.
“I think it was a big testament to how much we’ve worked this summer and how much we click as a team,” Grubbs said of the win. “Each one of us is best friends and family members to each other and we came out, we said this is our season, we’re going to make every single game our best game no matter what if it’s home or away.”
Hart continues league play against Canyon on Tuesday at 5:15 p.m. Valencia plays at West Ranch on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.
West Ranch 3, Golden Valley 1
Allison Jacobs led the Wildcats with 27 kills and Sophie Bobal logged 13 kills. Olivia Hoffmann had 16 digs and Erin Eskoff had 48 assists.
West Ranch (1-7, 1-1) hosts Valencia on Tuesday and Golden Valley (6-4, 0-1) hosts Lancaster tonight.