By Brendan Samuels

HART – Both Hart and Hesperia have taken some lumps to start the 2023 volleyball season, but it was the Pirates who came out on top when the two met on Tuesday.

Hart won 25-18, 25-18, 27-25.

The Panthers and Pirates experienced a heated contest in the beginning stages of the night’s first set. Struggles with serving from both sides prevented either from gaining any sustained success. That was until Hart went on a run that had them holding a 20-13 lead.

That lead turned into a 25-18 win for Hart, despite Hesperia doing its best to get back into the game.

“We definitely could’ve played better,” Hart coach Amanda Van Sickle said. “We were just able to finish more and were a little more scrappy. We were digging them right at the net and I think that was kind of the difference. Service was obviously not the difference because we missed way too many.”

Moving into the second set, Hart controlled the pace of the game. Hesperia had some difficulty extending rallies, leading to wild scrambles that ended in points for the Pirates. In the end, the score read the same as the first set, 25-18 in favor of Hart.

Then, in the third set, Hesperia came alive. The Panthers put consistent pressure on Hart’s defense with some well-placed tips that found gaps on the floor. Pair that with some nice blocks at the net by contributors like Hesperia freshman Sarissa Conkle, seniors Alana Nadjkovic and Kayla Rumsey and the Panthers built themselves a lead.

On top 20-15 in that final set, Hesperia looked primed to extend play thanks to attacks from Rumsey on the outside and savvy play at the net by senior Abby Joppich. Hart had other plans, however. The Pirates battled back to push things into extra points, eventually closing out the night, 27-25.

“We got our energy up quite a bit and our girls were playing hard,” Hesperia coach Alyx Beachum said. “Both teams wanted it and, overall, we didn’t play bad. We’ve got a younger team and we can only go up from here.”

Leaders for Hart included Kelsey Copenhaver (15 digs, 13 assists, 10 kills, one ace), Reese Smith (10 digs, seven kills, two aces) and Maryn Klotz (13 digs, nine assists, two aces). 

It was Hart’s first conference win. The Pirates are now 14-8-2 overall with a 1-2 standing in the WMC Rivers. Hart will get a break with its next action next Thursday when they travel to Ravenna.

Hesperia (1-8) will host a quad meet Thursday as Shelby, LeRoy Pine River and Oakridge come to town.