As the Hart volleyball team frantically swarmed the court after sweeping Saugus on Thursday at Hart, Indians coach Mary Irilian wasn’t joining in the celebrations.
Instead, she was still on the sidelines, digging around until she grasped two signs that read “UNDEFEATED” and hoisted them into the air.
The Indians swarm quickly pivoted towards Irilian and “We Are the Champions” began playing over the gym’s loudspeaker.
The whirlwind was a lot to take in, but it was occurring with good reason. After claiming the league title on Tuesday by sweeping West Ranch, Hart made history with its sweep of Saugus, becoming the first undefeated Foothill League champions in program history.
“It starts years in the making,” Irlian said. “So if you think about all the times starting from freshman to groom them, to get them to be in the mindset to play competitively on a varsity team, it’s been a long road.”
The Indians (21-5 overall, 10-0 in Foothill League) and Centurions had their longest game in the first frame, going point-for-point in the last moments. Kayla Tait knocked the ball hard right for a kill to give Saugus a 23-22 lead, then Hart’s Ruby Duncan floated a ball over the net to tie it at 23-23.
Zoe DiNardo jumped up for a block to set up the match point for the Indians, then followed up with a kill on the next frame to seal it at 25-23.
The kill not only ended the game, but broke the record for single-season kills. DiNardo surpassed the 283 mark to set a new Hart record.
“As it was getting close and closer, she was becoming more and more excited,” Irilian said, “and so it was fun to kind of see that emotional crossing over to experience being part of school history.”
Hart stormed out to a 22-4 lead in the second game before Saugus (20-11, 7-3) began to strike back. Tait scored a point, a Hart hit went wide and Jessica Nash aced a serve to cut the deficit to 22-7.
The Cents didn’t make much more progress, however, as Shelby Grubbs executed a kill to end Game 2 at 25-10.
“Our serving was on point. Our offense was putting the ball away. Our passing was great,” DiNardo said. “We were just clicking. We had a bunch of energy. We were super hyped. We were just together. We were playing together.”
The Indians gained a six-point lead to begin Game 3 and hung onto it for the remainder of the stanza. Noelle Blumel aced three consecutive serves, then DiNardo blasted three straight kills for a 25-10 win.
“The third set, last kill where it was just like, keep the ball in play and hope for the best,” DiNardo said. “Honestly getting a kill off of that was the most surreal thing. Not surreal, but like, fun.”
Hart only dropped one game in the entirety of the league season. Their only game loss came at the hands of Saugus, which made a bit of history for itself this season.
The Centurions finished second in the Foothill League, the team’s best finish since it claimed the league title in 2011.
“The girls showed grit all year,” said Saugus coach Zach Ambrose. “They played together as a team and that got us through some tight matches. Getting second is a testament to their selflessness, hard work, and resolve.”
Tait finished the match with 10 kills and 20 digs. Riannon Boddy had 13 digs.
For Hart, DiNardo logged 14 kills, followed by Duncan, who had 12 and Grubbs, who had 10. Mattson added 34 assists and Blumel chipped in 22 digs.
Brackets for the CIF-Southern Section playoffs will be released on Saturday at 1 p.m.
“We’re just going to keep practicing hard, go to CIF, go to state, you know,” Duncan said.
Valencia 3, Golden Valley 0
Game scores were 25-14, 25-20, 25-21. Kendall Thompson and Grace Evans tied with 11 kills, followed by Macy Kirkwood with seven for the Vikings. Camille Kamarauskas led the Vikes with 12 digs.
West Ranch 3, Canyon 0
The Wildcats’ Alex Muira chipped in six kills, while Tyler Maxine and Elena Sarieddine had four kills each. Caitlin Varsam logged 18 assists. Sophie Bobal and Emily Hanna had 10 digs apiece.
SCCS 3, Palmdale Aerospace Academy 0
The Cardinals are co-league champions in the Heritage League after beating the Griffins 25-15, 25-16, 25-19.
Trinity 3, Lancaster Baptist 0
The Knights won by scores of 25-8, 25-13, 25-17. Riley Spector paced Trinity with 20 assists and two aces. Corinne Sandifer had six digs and three kills and Hannah Caddow had eight kills and three aces.