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Shaking off the rust

VICTOR– The Lady Spartans have their chance to play for a state tournament berth.
Solon’s varsity volleyball team advanced in the Class 4A regionals with a 3-1 win over Pella Thursday (Oct. 25) in Victor.
The Lady Spartans lost the first game 23-25, but stormed back to capture the next three, 25-19, 25-11, 25-12.
“It’s typical to have a sluggish start when you’ve been off for two weeks, especially when your team has been playing its best volleyball,” said head coach Peter Gustin. “That’s not an excuse, though. We just didn’t play our best volleyball early on and Pella took full advantage of it. Our team was too determined and mentally strong to think we were in danger after dropping the first set.”
The game was originally scheduled to be played in Solon, but the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union changed the location to Victor. The Lady Spartans received a first round bye and with the win are scheduled to return to Victor for the regional final against Oskaloosa Tuesday, Oct. 30 (subsequent to the publication of this edition). Another win places Solon in the state volleyball tournament for the second year in a row.
It took a little while for the Lady Spartans to knock off the rust against Pella.
Solon charged back and took control of the second game, winning a long volley at 23-18 that seemed to set the stage for the rest of the match.
By the third game, Solon was in command. Emma Rickels, Taylor Nearad and other Lady Spartans were able to score on their serves. A five-point lead became a 10-point lead, and Solon was ahead, 2-1.
“Part of our game plan was to serve them deep in the last three feet of the court,” Gustin explained later. “When their serve receive was off, we knew their hitters wouldn’t have aggressive attacks. Having a fairly sizable front row, the plan fed right into our strength of executing on free balls with a quick tempo.”
The Lady Spartans sputtered slightly in the final game, but Kelsey Hinrichs served a couple of points and her near-ace gave Solon a five-point lead and the team cruised from there. Hinrichs had her best all-around performance of the year, according to Gustin, finishing with 11 kills and 11 digs. 
The Lady Spartans served up eight aces on the night, led by Jordan Smith with three. Smith also had 15 kills and nine digs. Rickels and Nearad had two aces each.
The offense was led by Kelsey Cave with 18 kills, several of them powerhouses on quick sets from Rickels, who led the team with 48 assists. Jordan Runge added nine kills. Cave and Smith led the defense with four blocks each (the team had 14 total), while Rylee Smith had 20 digs and was 13-14 from the service line.
“Pella fought extremely hard in the first set, and our errors eventually mounted up to a point where we ran out of time,” Gustin commented. “However, I think we eventually wore them out after that set. Early on, they were digging machines, but once we established our block, their execution in transition fell short.”