Hannah and Sophia Hritz are looking forward to finally being able to play together on the same court as Sarasota Sailors.
Sophia Hrtiz wanted to be just like her older sister, Hannah. She was willing to do whatever it took to a part of the in crowd — even if that meant spending countless hours getting pounded by volleyballs.
It was worth it. The mere thought of being a part of her sister’s world was well worth the occasional bump or bruise for Sophia, then a fourth-grader.
Before long, Sophia realized volleyball was more than just an opportunity to spend time with her sister, who was in seventh grade at the time. It was a sport she could she herself involved with longterm.
“I picked it up a lot earlier than maybe I was supposed to, but I just loved it so much, and I thought I would be cool if I did it too,” Sophia said.
It’s been five years since Sophia fended off her first volleyball from Hannah, and now the two sisters are preparing to take the court together for the first time as teammates.
On Aug. 1, Hannah and Sophia will participate in their first official practice of the fall as members of the volleyball team for Sarasota High, where Hannah will be a senior and Sophia will be a freshman.
This season will mark the first and only time, aside from one beach tournament, where the two sisters will be on the same team.
“I trust her more than some of the other passers on the team,” Hannah said. “I know how she fends off balls, her emotions and the way she moves.”
Although Hannah, 17, and Sophia, 14, haven’t been on the same team until now, playing together is nothing new. Both sisters play club volleyball for the Wave Volleyball Alliance.
While Hannah plays for Wave’s 17 pro team and Sophia plays for Wave’s 14 pro team, the sisters spent four to five days a week practicing and weight training together at the Wave facility during the club season while also spending time there this summer to further prepare for the fall.
The girls are always the first ones to arrive and the last ones to leave, offering to sweep the floors and clean up wherever they can before calling it a day.
“Personally, I don’t feel like you could hope for anymore than that,” Wave Volleyball Alliance co-owner and former Sarasota High volleyball coach Chad Sutton, who is now at Cardinal Mooney, said. “I told my wife if we have a daughter and she’s not like that, I’m going to be disappointed. They’ve set the standard high.”
After realizing they both had a passion for the sport, the Hrtizes put up a volleyball net in their backyard.
Sophia, a libero, would stand on one side of the net trying to fend off her sister’s balls while Hannah, an outside hitter, would do anything in her power to send the ball crashing down on her sister.
“I feel like I have to dig Hannah’s balls,” Sophia said. “I always hit at her. It’s a sister thing.”
“I just get to beat her up all of the time,” Hannah said.
Together Hannah and Sophia have perfected their games one serve at a time, relying on one another to learn everything from jump serving to passing to becoming all-around better players.
“They are each other’s best motivation,” their mother, Sally Hritz said.
When the two sisters first started playing beach volleyball a few summers ago, Sophia struggled to get the timing of her jump serve just right. She would either start to jump too early or toss the ball in the wrong spot.
Finally, Sophia turned to the one person who knew her game better than anyone else: Hannah.
Together, Hannah and Sophia spent countless practices working on Sophia’s jump serve, and eventually it all came together.
“I wanted to do it because she could do it,” Sophia said. “I remember telling her, 'I’m just as good as you are now.' It was exciting because I could do something Hannah could do even though she taught me how to do it.”
Three weeks ago, the two sisters showed off their talents during Florida Southern College’s volleyball camp June 29-July 1.
With nearly 60 players in attendance, Hannah was named the camp’s MVP, while Sophia was named its Rising Star.
It won’t be long now before this MVP and Rising Star serve their first volleyball alongside one another, when Sarasota opens its season Aug. 24 against rival Riverview.
And while Sally Hrtiz won’t have Sophia by her side in the stands this fall, the thought of seeing her two daughters donning the same uniform at least once makes up for it.
“It’s gone from anxiety and hoping they get the ball over the net to the excitement of seeing them become stronger players and the confidence they have on the court,” Sally Hrtiz said. “It’ll be awesome to watch them develop and show off their strengths and confidence together.”