Heading into Tuesday night’s girls volleyball Foothill League match between Hart and Golden Valley, one thing was clear: the Grizzlies were ready to give the Indians all they could handle as they are still trying to capture their first league win of the season.
Down to begin the first game, the Grizzlies found their groove as Kasey Alvarez delivered three consecutive aces to give Golden Valley a six-point lead. Unable to sustain the lead, the momentum swung in Hart’s favor and the Indians mounted a comeback to take the first game and the match in three games: 25-21, 25-12, 25-18.
“For the most part, we were very composed and we did our job,” said Hart head coach Mary Irilian. “We had a couple of dips which will happen at times when you are up by a certain amount of points or maybe it’s your viewpoint of the other competitor, you drop just a little bit, so we could have cleaned that up.”
Calling a timeout down 12-6 in the first game, the Indians (5-2 overall, 2-0 Foothill League) regrouped and scored eight of the next 12 points to get within striking range of the Grizzlies down 16-14. That’s when senior opposite hitter Ruby Duncan saw her time to strike.
Duncan hit back-to-back aces to tie the game at 16-16 and pulled her team in front with a thunderous kill to give the Indians the lead and sparked a 6-0 run.
“I just go in with the mindset of doing the most I can to help my team out and pull out a win,” Duncan said. “If it’s serving, hitting, defense or whatever I can do to better my team, that’s what I focus on.”
Things got worse for the Grizzlies as All-Foothill League player Jordan Nunez went down with an apparent ankle injury after rushing the net a couple of points later.
Golden Valley (4-7, 0-2) tried to regroup as Amber Palomino delivered one the Grizzlies’ six aces in the game, but the team couldn’t recover with Nunez out and fell in the second game.
During the intermission, Nunez worked with a Golden Valley trainer and was able to return to the game.
“I look at it like the way that our team wants to be known as is a team that loves playing volleyball,” said Golden Valley head coach Josh Cho. “We had a couple of mistakes in the second set with our rotation because of our player going down and we had some mistakes on served receivers. But once that ball is in the air, we can play with anybody.”
Just like in the game prior, Duncan along with fellow senior Megan Soto, carried the momentum and used their chemistry and elite killing skills to give the Indians an early 8-5 lead.
“They are essential,” Irilian said of Duncan and Soto. “They are impact players, both on offense and defense. Those two are our core as far as this year goes.”
Looking like her normal self, Nunez replied with a kill of her own to pump up the crowd.
Following the Nunez kill, there was a long pause in the action as Golden Valley was out of rotation, forcing the Grizzlies to call a timeout down 13-8. The Grizzlies were unable to recover, being called for rotation errors and after another Soto kill, fell by double digits.
Both teams committed multiple service errors to begin the third game until Hart’s Lina Elsee hit three aces over four serves to put the Indians ahead 11-5 lead.
Grace Eck and Aubrey Janvrin each added two aces of their own later in the game to give Hart a big enough lead to take the game and the match in three.
The Indians had five different players combine to hit 16 aces while the Grizzlies finished with eight aces among three players.
“We work hard in practice,” Irilian said. “You don’t serve to ace, but you serve areas of the court and you hope to create confusion or you serve a passer that isn’t doing well and the girls are doing really well at hitting those areas.”
The Grizzlies travel to West Ranch to take on the Wildcats at 5:30 p.m and Hart returns home to host Valencia at 5:15 p.m. on Thursday.