Hart volleyball thrashes Valencia in league opener 

Hart Indians outside hitter Madi Maxwell (11) hits the ball past San Marcos blockers in a game last season. Chris Torres/The Signal
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Hart Indians girls volleyball wreaked havoc in its Foothill League opener at Valencia on Wednesday. 

Hart swept the Valencia Vikings, 25-10, 25-15, 25-16.  

The Indians got a boost everywhere, with strong passing, blocking, hitting and most of all serving.  

Hart (2-0) was led by senior outside hitter Madison Maxwell, who tallied up 15 kills in the Foothill League opener.  

The Indians wasted no time getting going and instantly jumped to a quick lead in the first set. Valencia (2-7) was a little unorganized and had a handful of first and second touches hit its own open floor.  

The Vikings battled back in the second and looked nothing like the team that took the court in the first. Valencia took an early lead in a back-and-forth set before Maxwell got to the service line for the majority of an 11-1 run.  

Hart outside hitter Maiah Jiz led her team from the end line with three aces, mostly accrued in a 6-0 run to start the third set.  

Iliana Garcia also added three aces for Hart.  

The Indians racked up 12 aces in the match, but for Jiz, the squad’s passing stood out and has come a long way since last year.  

“Our passing has gotten really good this this year and so has our blocking,” Jiz said. “We still need to work on our blocking, but those two, we’ve gotten so much better at.”  

Hart knows no opponent will roll over and give up down 0-2. The Indians battled in the final set, diving for everything, sprinting for quality touches and still hammering shots on the net.  

Hart head coach Mary Irilian said that’s the character of her squad.  

“That’s just us,” Irilian said. “We literally practice and I chuck balls across the gym for them to go dive after. We teach relentlessness and hustle. We’re gonna make mistakes in that process, but I feel like we’ll give it as best we can.” 

Hart’s back row had four players add over seven digs in the win.  

The Vikings found some life with junior setter Taylor Dice serving, but just couldn’t get back into the game before a Martina Neveleff kill sealed the straight-set victory for Hart.  

Senior setter Morgan Dumlao added 24 assists and a handful of crafty kills for the Indians.  

Valencia is coming off a strong 18-win season, but after graduating 16 seniors, is going through some growing pains early in 2023.  

Vikes coach Kristin Dolan’s squad also got off to a slow start in 2022 but quickly turned things around on a seven-match win streak.  

Hart is in the exact opposite situation, returning nearly every starter from last season, giving the Indians a good shot at a league title. 

“We’re all friends really and we’ve been starters since last year,” Jiz said. “It just feels really nice to play with them and we’re all getting better as a team. I really do think that we might win league this year.” 

Irilian’s roster features a handful of new players, who all understand their roles in making the team better with every opportunity.  

“(The new players) are great additions,” Irilian said. “The girls that didn’t see court time are actually great in practice. They challenge us and they work hard. They know that this is maybe their role on the team and then they hope for next year being their year. So everyone seems to have a purpose. And I think that’s important to drive us all together moving forward.” 

There will be 11 more Foothill League matches standing in the way of the Indians’ ultimate goal.  

“A win’s a win and we’ll take it,” Irilian said. “We will work on the things that we need to work on moving forward. We know we’re going to be challenged on the way.”  

Valencia will take another crack at a league win on Wednesday when the Vikings host Saugus (8-0) at 5:30 p.m. Hart returns home for non-league action on Wednesday, and will take on the Stockdale Mustangs (2-0). 

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