On the Big stage
CEDAR RAPIDS– It’s never happy news when the season ends with a loss.
The Solon Lady Spartans took a 32-1 record into the State Volleyball Tournament last week, but exited 100 minutes later after a five-set, topsy-turvy rollercoaster opening round match against No. 9 Union of LaPorte City.
“I was sorry, but all in all, this was truly a season for the record books,” said Head Coach Kurt Trout. The Lady Spartans collected the most wins in Solon volleyball history, captured the school’s first WaMaC district title and the team’s first-ever appearance at the state tournament.
But none of that seemed to matter as much last Wednesday at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena when the wheels fell off the bus.
The Lady Spartans had scrapped back to take games two and three after dropping the first to Union, and needed only one more game to advance to the next round.
Solon took the first point in the pivotal game four, but quickly fell behind by five points and, after managing to almost draw even, saw the game slip away.
Union took the momentum into the rubber match and quickly built a lead that would not be relinquished.
The Lady Spartans fell in their first state appearance, 23-25, 27-25, 25-17, 16-25, 6-15.
“We knew going in that Union was a solid team, but we did not expect them to play defense as well as they did,” Trout said. Union had been in the same spot as Solon the year before; they earned the district’s first-ever tournament appearance and lost in the opening round, but brought back six starters for this year’s campaign.
“Even though it was all very fun and exciting, without question we were nervous all day, and that sort of wore on us and took some of our energy,” Trout noted. Those nerves seemed to settle as the Lady Spartans took control in the third game.
“In the middle of game four, we saw we were running out of gas and started to waver,” the coach continued. “It wasn’t that the girls weren’t trying, the whole experience had just drained them, and we lost control early in game five.”
Solon miscues compounded the problem, as did some of the defensive adjustments made by the Knights. “It was a snowball effect,” Trout added.
Despite the loss, Trout was upbeat, and thanked the Solon fans. “The crowd did a fantastic job trying to keep us going,” he said. After the loss, he noted, the fans continued to chant their support. “The fans this year have been nothing short of fantastic, and the staff and girls absolutely loved it,” he noted.
Union was defeated in the semifinal round by eventual 3A champion Waverly-Shell Rock.
“Even though there were tears, we told them in the locker room, no girl in Solon history has held that state plaque we received, and they should be very proud,” Trout said. “This whole season was about doing something that had never been done in Solon history, and the girls went out and did it.”
The Lady Spartans end their season with a 32-2 record, and graduate a single senior, Reagan Johnson.
“We will miss Reagan both on and off the court, and she was a huge part of what we did this year,” Trout observed. “But we also know that next year, we are the experienced and veteran team, and look to take this program past where it was this year.”
Kelsey Cave led Solon with 14 kills, 10 blocks and 12 digs. Kelsey Hinrichs also added 14 kills and 20 assists. Emma Rickels added 18 assists. Rylee Smith had 21 digs to pace the Lady Spartans.