Hart volleyball humbles reigning CIF-SS Division 5 champs St. Paul

Hart's Lina Elsee (2) dives for a ball in the second game against St. Paul at Hart High on Thursday, October 18, 2018. Dan Watson/The Signal
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Hart volleyball’s Zoe DiNardo couldn’t believe how many people were in the stands for her team’s match against St. Paul of Santa Fe Springs.

The spectators came with good reason, though. After winning the Foothill League championship in undefeated fashion, the Indians swept the Swordsmen at Hart on Thursday in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 playoff tournament.

“We did our jobs and we played everything like we planned and it went awesome,” DiNardo said. “And we had a big crowd, too. We weren’t expecting that.”

Hart’s Shelby Grubbs (67) puts a shot over the net against St. Paul at Hart High on Thursday, October 18, 2018. Dan Watson/The Signal

Hart (22-5 overall) coasted to a 25-12 win in Game 1 with little resistance from St. Paul, which was the CIF-SS Division 5 champion last season. The Swordsmen (23-12) began applying pressure in the second game, going point-for-point with valuable offensive maneuvers from Leanet Fandino and Lauryn Bradley.

The Indians took a comfortable lead at 9-6 with a block and a kill from Shelby Grubbs and went on a handful of scoring runs that featured defensive scrambles from the back row before winning the game 25-17 on a kill from DiNardo.

“I think throughout practice this whole season we’ve all come to like, trust each other a lot more because day in and day out we just make sure we practice covering every area on the court and I think we all just have the flow enough at this point to trust each other to get it up,” said libero Noelle Blumel, who logged 13 digs.

Blocking was the theme for Hart in the third game, as the team started with a 3-0 lead with a stop from DiNardo and Grubbs. St. Paul was able to tie it up at 6-6, but a Ruby Duncan kill pulled the Indians ahead by one point.

Hart defenders Kylie Mattson (23) and Shelby Grubbs (67) go upto block a shot by Lauryn Bradley (20) of St. Paul at Hart High on Thursday, October 18, 2018. Dan Watson/The Signal

The Swordsmen tied it again on the next play, but Duncan executed another kill to put the advantage in Hart’s favor. A double block from Grubbs and Megan Soto put the Indians up 9-7.

“Our blocking tonight was insane,” said DiNardo, who led the Indians with 13 kills. “So we were really aggressive at the net, so I think that was helping. We were stopping the ball before it even came on our side, then we were just putting balls away.”

DiNardo strung together two kills for a 13-10 advantage and Hart never relinquished the lead. DiNardo wrapped up the final game at 25-18 with two straight kills to complete the sweep.

“We made some adjustments,” said Hart coach Mary Irilian. “We executed, we just did what we did, do what we do very well, and it seemed to work out for us.”

Hart will play the winner of the match between Citrus Valley and Norco on Saturday.

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