Hart Indians boys’ volleyball is off to the program’s first CIF semifinals appearance after a tough road win over the Quartz Hill Royals.
The Indians won the Division 4 quarterfinals match, 19-25, 25-22, 25-20, 25-21.
Hart (30-5) overcame an intense and loud gym, packed with Royals fans giving their team total home court advantage.
The Indians dropped the first set but were able to bounce back thanks to another record-breaking performance from senior Owen Douphner. The outside hitter broke his own single-match kill record, which he set three days prior, with a 40-kill night on only 50 swings. For Hart coach Loy Mueller, it wasn’t too bad of a performance for his senior who took two AP tests that morning.
“It’s awesome to see. He’s just a unicorn,” Mueller said in a phone interview. “He not only does it with his skill, he demands the respect from his teammates and returns that respect. He’s been really thriving with Hank Kaufman, Brandon Derham and all these other guys stepped up. He’s comfortable and confident. Owen is special. He’s been special for two years. Seeing him in this third year is just so cool.”
Mueller knew Hart would have its hands full with the loaded Quartz Hill (27-9) roster. The Indians’ blocking didn’t register any huge numbers but made all the difference in the later sets.
“They’re a deep roster,” Mueller said. “We were trying to take away their main shots that their attackers hit. We didn’t do it in set one but did it more in set two. We saw we were getting to them because they started forcing them to make different errors and getting uncomfortable. The blocks weren’t there but they were forcing errors.”
Mueller didn’t think the team got off to its normal slow start but early errors all over the court cost the Indians the opening set. Once the first set ended, the group knew the hardest part was over and the team could utilize the opposing fans’ energy.
Hart thrived throughout the next three sets, with a ton of great passing from its back row.
The Indians’ serve receive made minimal errors on some tough Royals’ serving. Hart libero Isaac Kim also helped slow down the Quartz Hill attack with 18 digs on the night. Kaufman also posted a double-double after some solid effort on both offense and defense. Kaufman finished with 15 kills and 10 digs.
Winning a game like that made victory so much sweeter for Hart.
“It felt really good to win,” Mueller said. “We knew this was a game we’d have to be up for and Quartz Hill did not disappoint with their energy. That was the craziest environment we’ve played in all season. Their home section was just packed.”
The team is ecstatic to return home after back-to-back playoff road wins. Hart will get to play in its first ever CIF semifinals match on its home court on Saturday when the Indians take on the Dana Hills Dolphins (24-13).
“We’re really excited” Mueller said. “Any time we get to play at home, it’s been fun. We’ve been comfortable and the boys love being home. After how much commute time these past few matches, they’re excited to see people come to us. Hopefully we can get a lot of alumni and fans to come watch and support us.”
The Indians and Dolphins will battle it out on Sunday at 4 p.m. for the chance to head to the CIF finals.