Hart Indians boys’ volleyball fell just short of a five-set victory on Friday against the Granada Hills Highlanders.
Hart dropped just its second match of the year, 18-25, 25-18, 19-25, 25-23, 15-12.
Both teams played around with lineups in the non-league matchup as tons of players got playing time in the long game.
The opening set was tight until Hart (10-2, 2-0) pulled in front on a 5-0 run. Blocking was key in the late push as the Highlanders (8-3) struggled to get solid swings past the Indians on the net.
Senior Owen Douphner led the Indians with a match-high 26 kills.
Granada flipped the script of the first set in their favor and exploded late to pull away with the same score by which they had just fallen.
Hart took a 2-1 lead in the match after a frustrating third set for the Highlanders.
Indians’ setter Tanner Andrews made an athletic block on Granada middle Spencer Quarles. Quarles nearly slammed down an over pass but the setter needed just one hand to stuff the kill.
Andrews finished with 41 assists.
“Our blocking was really good just all across the net,” said Hart head coach Loy Mueller. “I do want to say our setter Tanner did a really nice job of getting the ball spread out a little bit more.”
The Highlanders stumbled through the set as a miscommunication led to an easy point out of a timeout. Hart senior Hank Kaufman registered one of his 12 kills off a free ball that was bobbled around on the Granada side.
The Indians were down 20-13 but battled back in the pivotal fourth set. Big swings from Granada’s Brandon Serpas and Nate Yu led the charge as the pair helped the Highlanders consistently throughout the day.
Hart opposite hitter Brandon Derham came up with a clutch block in the rally but the Indians just fell short.
Derham finished the match with season highs of eight kills on 24 attempts.
The match was Hart’s third five-set match of the year but just the Highlanders’ first.
Granada took an early lead, forcing the Indians to play from behind. Hart tied the set at 12-12 thanks to back-to-back blocks by Douphner but it would be the last points for the Indians. Granada slammed down two quick kills before junior Ezra Jong won the match for the Highlanders with his second ace of the set.
The match was a tough pill to swallow but Mueller was pleased with his team’s all-around performance, especially those who don’t normally see the court.
“I really feel good,” Mueller said. “Every player brings a specific trait and characteristics that are really valuable to us. It’s nice if someone goes down or is sick, someone can step up and be that guy. Looking at the box score, the depth is there and we definitely have guys ready to go on an emergency notice so I’m happy with it.”
Both teams are looking strong early in the year and will each jump back into league action this week. Granada will remain home and host El Camino Real on Wednesday while Hart returns home to host Canyon at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday
Mueller is hoping to see his team continue to fight in tough sets but not get into as many deficits.
“I would love to see us a little better at protecting the lead or not getting into that situation,” Mueller said. “We need to identify when we’re in negative run and try to stop it there. The game gets a lot harder when you’re behind.”