Hart girls’ volleyball (15-5, 9-3) had a night to remember on Thursday. The Indians defeated Valencia (17-8, 9-3) in five sets, opposite hitter Madi Maxwell broke two school records and they have tied for second place in the Foothill League, all on senior night.
Maxwell only needed three more kills to break the Hart career kills record and went above and beyond that. The junior slammed down 34 kills, breaking her own record of most kills in a single match (26).
“It’s great to get a record but I just want to keep grinding and persevering and beat my record again,” said Maxwell.
Hart won with scores of 25-15, 28-26, 25-27 and 15-12.
Both teams started with a little rust, each registering plenty of mistakes.
Hart would get going quicker and never let up in the first set. Valencia’s blocking kept them in the game throughout the night. Middle blockers Nelia Trower and Brooklyn Cohen were all over Hart’s attacks. The Indians still managed to control the first set and steamrolled through the opener.
Valencia’s rust was shaken off and the team jumped to a 4-0 lead in the second set thanks to a huge Cohen block on Maxwell.
Cohen led the Vikings with 16 kills.
“I think Nelia really stepped it up this match,” said Valencia head coach Kristin Dolan. “We’ve been working on her blocking and her blocking was great, her transition hitting was great. Brooklyn was Brookyln. She goes up and gets big swings, blocks and kills. The middle production was good.”
Cohen started cooking thanks to quick sets from Valencia setter Brooke Tynon, who ended her regular-season Viking career with a 43-assist performance.
The Foothill League rivals kept it close throughout the second set and it began to look clear it’d go into extra points. Hart was able to find a way and take the second, 28-26.
The Vikings never looked like a team down 0-2. Outside hitter Hailey McKell had struggled to this point but surged in the second set. McKell registered six of her 12 kills in the set to help Valencia finally get on the board. McKell’s defense was also critical as the senior led the Vikings with 23 digs.
Trower’s blocking kept Hart at bay but the game would still go over 25 points again. Tynon registered back-to-back assists to end the third set. The senior first set outside hitter Tara Gaspar to take a 26-25 lead before a kill from Trower ended the set.
Trower and Gaspar both concluded their Viking regular season career with 10-kill nights.
The Valencia middle blockers would again be the key for success in the fourth. Cohen and Trower had hands everywhere above the net, allowing little room for error for Hart.
The Indians managed to tie the game at 18-18 but the Vikings took control. The offense kept firing and a Cohen kill would send the game into the fifth set.
Valencia was stiff to start but loosened up as the game went on. To ensure the looseness, Dolan and the team had a quick singing of “What Dreams Are Made of” by Hillary Duff before heading into the final set.
“They play better when they’re loose,” said Dolan. “We were super tight in the first set. They need that happy place where they’re loose and focused.”
Both teams kept swinging and showed little fatigue. Early kills from Hart outside hitter Maiah Jiz kept it close and took some pressure off of Maxwell. Jiz finished her night with 11 kills.
“In game five, we had to focus on the mental and emotional side of the game,” said Hart head coach Mary Irilian. “Physically, I knew we could do it but we struggled a little bit in those lulls of the sets.”
Indians’ setter Morgan Dumlao had a phenomenal night. The junior fed her offense well and ended the night with 53 assists. Dumlao also served a clutch ace in the fifth to take a 10-9 lead.
Valencia had some miscommunication here and there and it cost them a dire point in the fifth. Following the error, a Maxwell kill gave Hart a 13-10 lead, forcing Valencia to take a timeout.
The Vikings responded well and McKell came out of the timeout with back-to-back kills. It would unfortunately be the last points for Valencia and Maxwell’s 34th kill would end the night.
“We went up and down but as a whole we really battled together,” said Maxwell. “We all stayed competitive. We’re all super close with each other so I think we all really wanted it that bad.”
Hart libero Alexis Holloway got under hits all night and finished the regular season with a 40-dig night. Holloway was especially all over the dump attacks of the aggressive Tynon.
Both teams were moving into the playoffs regardless of the outcome of Thursday’s match. Hart avenges its 0-3 loss to Valencia earlier this season and will move into the postseason with some momentum.
Saugus, Hart, Valencia and West Ranch will move into the postseason and find out their paths on Saturday when CIF announces brackets.
“We’re looking for a good run,” said Irilian. “We’re now in Division 1 after being in Division 2 for so long. This will be a good opportunity for us to make progress in CIF. It’s new stomping grounds so we’re excited to see how far we can get.”