There are only three seniors on the Lady Trojans volleyball team this year and outside hitter Payton Hart, No. 10 is one of them. Hart finds herself in a leadership role this year which she gladly shares with two other seniors, Bryana Soliwoda and Mikayla Davis, two more seniors than last year. Last year the team finished in second place to Faith Lutheran in the Sunset League with only one senior. The team was largely made up of sophomores and juniors, but still managed to get into the playoffs.
Hart is very passionate about the game of volleyball and says she enjoys teaching the game to younger players.
She has been playing since the sixth grade. It’s her only sport and she knows she is on a good team. After the season, she tried club volleyball for a bit and then trained with other teammates in open gym during the spring and summer months.
It was just two years ago, where Hart was mostly on the sideline watching hitters like Regan Van Engen and Megan “the wall” Hamrick teach her about the game. She said there is a big difference today.
“Back then the seniors were always helping me out and now I have to help all the new kids, and let them know what to do. I try to keep them up and happy, which is going really well, and we are staying positive. It’s not added pressure. I was doing this last year so I am kind of used to it,” Hart said.
Trojans Coach Jill Harris believes in her team and thinks this year’s players are still way ahead of the learning curve regardless of the amount of seniors.
For a team to advance and finish on top in state, and perhaps the state championship, the team must play flawlessly and in harmony with no chemistry issues.
Hart feels the team will work most of the issues out at tournaments due to the number of games played.
“We have a tournament this weekend in Las Vegas. Lately we have been concentrating on our new players because we’ve got a bunch, so we put in Andi Bishop and Jill and we are working on Jill and her setting. We are just all trying to figure out how we play with each other because we have different people. There are only a couple of new people, but it will be rough in the beginning because they are not used to each other, knowing who will take the ball. Once we get used to each other we should be good,” Hart said.
This is what chemistry is all about, getting used to how the other players play.
Last year there was no doubt who was going to get the ball. The team turned to Hart to pick up the hard and fast balls coming over the net, according to Harris. Since last year Hart has worked hard on her hitting to help her team offensively.
Hart spent the majority of the off-season working on her technique.
“I went to a few volleyball camps,” Hart explained. “I went to one with teammates to Dixie State and we did very well. It was different because we did not have our whole team. Then we had Dixie come down and help our team here in Pahrump. We all got a little better. At the last camp we were just trying to get to know each other again. That takes a lot of work.”
The hard work has made her hitting even better. Last year she was hitting like a cannon, so even a little improvement should blow defenses from other teams away.
“My hitting is better,” she said. “The big thing is a change in my footwork, which I was not getting it down last year. As long as my footwork is good and the timing is right, then my hits are pretty good.”
Hart knows the footwork is important.
“The timing must be right and you must know when to jump,” Hart said. “You have to know when to hit the ball and not swing way too far back. It takes a lot of work. It’s timing and you have to hit over and over until you finally figure out what you are doing wrong. The coach usually talks you through it and tells you what is going wrong and it is tiring, jumping over and over. When you finally figure out what you are doing wrong and fix it it’s a great feeling.”
Harris believes in what Hart is doing and said her hitter is a hard worker.
“Payton struggled a little early on, but she still hasn’t found her feet,” Harris said. “She is aggressive and she goes for it all the time. I like that. The more games she gets, that aggressiveness will pay off. At the tournament she had a really good attitude. She was real encouraging to the younger kids. One time she got down, she snapped right out of it. She is going to be fine. She is still struggling to get into the routine of it and getting used to who she plays next to. She has a better support staff this year. As far as people taking the ball, we have a pretty good back row. She has never had that good of support in the back.”
Hart believes her team this year has a good attitude towards winning.
“We have a very positive attitude this year. I am sure we will be pretty good as long as we work together. Teams like Faith can be intimidating because they are so much bigger than us, but we can beat them. It’s all in our heads, we have the ability to beat them, but we are just not thinking it. We again need to stay positive. We know we can do it,” she said.
Hart and the rest of the girls will be in action on Sept. 7 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Pahrump Valley Invitational.