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The Student News Site of Ocean Lakes High School

The Current

The Student News Site of Ocean Lakes High School

The Current

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Hart has heart

Dolphin alumna continues to inspire young athletes, sharing her hunger to win
Danielle Hart celebrates after a win against Team Nootsara in Phoenix, AZ, on Oct. 6, 2023. Photo used with permission from Jade Hewitt.

Nine years ago, alumna Danielle Hart stepped onto the volleyball court as a Dolphin for the first time. Now, Hart has won four Big Ten Championships, a NCAA National Championship, and hopes to continue her success’s as an Omaha Supernova.

Although Hart began her athletics as a swimmer, the stress of her parent’s divorce forced her to stop competing near the end of elementary school. After not participating in a sport for a year, Hart was aching for competition. 

“I think my dad was trying to plant a seed,” said Hart. “He would always get me excited to attend my friend’s volleyball games and I would always make posters for them.”

At a friend’s volleyball tournament, Hart was recruited to play volleyball due to her height. 12-year-old Hart stood six feet tall. Soon after, she received her first-ever volleyball.

“My middle school bus was notorious for being late, and that was literally where it all started, peppering with my dad at the bus stop,” said Hart.

That quickly helped her find her love for volleyball.

“I tried out for the [volleyball] team in middle school, but I didn’t even make it, even though I was super tall,” said Hart.

According to Hart, she knew that volleyball was her sport, and in order to get better she needed to play more. That year she joined a club team.

“I don’t think we won a single set the entire season,” said Hart. “But that’s how I got into volleyball.”

The motivation to improve helped Hart make the volleyball team in eighth grade and her freshman year in high school.

“I hardly touched the court during my freshman year, but ever since then, everything has been a work in progress,” said Hart.

Even as a freshman, Hart knew the importance of building strength, so she took an inlet fitness class with PE teacher Christine Thornton.

“She was constantly working on her strength in class,” said Thornton.

During her freshman year, Hart began receiving interest letters from colleges all around the United States. As she started touring different colleges, she realized that staying close to home was in her best interest.

“Danielle was unlike any other athlete,” said volleyball coach Christina Barnhart.

Hart committed to play Division 1 volleyball at Virginia Tech, early during her sophomore year of high school. She also received second team All-State honors during her sophomore and junior years.

However, throughout her junior year, Virginia Tech started to feel like the wrong option.

“I wanted to go someplace that was going to challenge me, and open more doors in the volleyball world, not close them,” said Hart.

Her ultimate goal was to one day compete on the USA team, but she felt Virginia Tech may not be the school that could get her there. 

Hart made the decision to de-commit her junior year of high school and explore other options that corresponded to her skill set and goals.

“My options automatically opened up, I knew my goals and I wanted to chase them,” said Hart.

According to Barnhart, Hart was hungry for more volleyball knowledge. Each day she applied the effort needed to accomplish her dreams.

During her senior year in high school, Hart received the first team All-State award.

“I was and still am super proud of her,” said Thornton.

After exploring new options at different universities, Hart committed to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

During Hart’s freshman year of college, she made the decision to redshirt. As a redshirted freshman, Hart sat out for one year, meaning that she was eligible to compete for four years beginning her sophomore year.

“They determined I should redshirt and I was totally fine with it,” said Hart. “I had so much catching up to do at the college level, it was the best decision for me at the time.” 

According to Hart, there is so much to learn about college-level volleyball. 

“Danielle will always work to improve her game,” said Barnhart.

Sophomore year in college, Hart began as a blocking substitution on the right side. Throughout her college career, her role changed frequently. 

“I just wanted to be a steady reliable player my team could trust,” said Hart.

The mindset Hart possesses is determined and goal-oriented.

Throughout her third and fourth years, Hart was a starter and an impact player.

“I tore my ACL during my fifth year,” said Hart. “There was no stopping it, my knee went in and I heard a pop.”

The injury helped Hart find herself in more of a leadership and coaching position, hoping to bring the team to an NCAA Big Ten Championship.

“I was just so touched by the way my teammates saw me, it allowed me to realize how much I could help from just leadership on the bench,” said Hart.

As her final and sixth season in college came around, Hart had overcome her injury.

“I could feel I was tapping into something different. It felt like I was about to bust through some new barriers,” said Hart.

Starting in all 32 matches and playing in 108 sets, Hart was ranked third in the nation and second in the Big Ten.

Throughout her collegiate career, Hart won a NCAA National Championship in 2021, and four NCAA Big Ten Championships.

After college, Hart signed with the Omaha, Nebraska Pro Volleyball team. The Supernovas of Omaha will play their first match on Jan. 24.

I am extremely lucky to be a part of Danielle Hart’s athletic journey, she was and will continue to be an inspiration for Ocean Lakes and a role model for young women around the world,” said Barnhart.

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About the Contributor
Marlie Smith
Marlie Smith, Girls Sports Editor
Marlie Smith is a second-year journalism student and girl's sports editor for The Current. As a multi-sport athlete, she is inspired by any story involving sports. She enjoys playing soccer and hopes to continue her athletics in college. Outside of school, she loves going to the beach, spending time with friends and watching Netflix. In the future, she hopes to become a teacher and inspire other people to write more.

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