Verdugo Hills takes care of North Hollywood at the Barn
After a shortened season in 2021 that saw an appearance in the Division II city championship game, the Verdugo Hills Dons have designs of building a championship caliber program that can finish where last season left off. The Dons are off to a good start after opening East Valley League play with a convincing three-set victory over the North Hollywood Huskies.
North Hollywood middle hitter Lars Hart made a big impression early in the first set. His tall frame and long wingspan made it difficult for Verdugo’s outside hitters to find lanes to score, and the Huskies jumped out to a 5-1 lead. The Dons would shake off the slow start to the set and pull ahead after a 14-5 scoring run. The Huskies were able to rally back in the set, but trouble in the service game prevented them from building enough momentum to regain control. The Dons would finish strong and take the first set 25-18.
The Second set began competitively as both squads traded points early. Led by stellar plays by Marquel Gardner and co-captain Elijah Garcia, the Dons went on a 5-0 scoring run to take a 13-8 lead before the Huskies called a timeout to regroup. North Hollywood would indeed begin to find a rhythm offensively, finding spaces for kills in behind the Verdugo Hills blockers upfront. Hunt continued to be a dominant presence upfront for the Huskies, but, just as in the first set, inconsistency in the service game cost the Huskies opportunities to put distance between themselves and the Dons on the scoreboard. To the Dons credit, whenever the Huskies unforced errors stalled their momentum, they would take advantage. After falling behind 21-18 in the set, the Dons would close out on a 7-1 run and put the Huskies on the ropes, down two sets to none.
Despite their backs being against the wall, the Huskies continued to make life difficult for themselves in the match with unforced errors. The Dons raced out to a 14-7 lead and looked like they were on their way to an easy victory. The Huskies showed grit and toughness getting back into the set with a 10-3 run that tied things up at 17-17. The two squads would continue to go back and forth until the Dons pulled ahead late in the set 23-20. The Huskies would rally back to tie things up at 24 apiece, but the Dons would close the contest with two straight points. Gardner would seal the deal with an ace, and the Dons would get the first win in league play this season.
Two straight-set victories is an impressive way to open the season, which is not lost on the Verdugo Hills boys volleyball head coach Will Reinhart. “This was a massive win for us. We have dominated the league for much of the last decade and we know that things will be tougher than usual for us to maintain our perch on top,” said Reinhart on the big victory against one of the league’s top contenders. “North Hollywood has explosive talent and size on offense, but we were able to exploit their inconsistency, defense and shaky setting to prevail. It was a great result for us, but we have much improvement to make if we hope to snag our seventh consecutive East Valley crown.”
The Dons will step back outside of league play for their next contest, as they will take on the Spartans out of Sylmar High School. The match gets underway at The Barn on March 9th at 3:45 pm.