SOLON– The Lady Spartans opened the 2013 campaign by beating Clear Creek Amana (CCA).
A pair of bookend wins would get the No. 2 Spartans a berth in the state tournament.
In a Class 4A region 8 final Tuesday night (Nov. 5), the No. 15 Clippers were expected to bring their 23-9 record to Cedar Rapids Washington to face Solon, with the winner advancing to state.
The Lady Spartans defeated Mount Pleasant 3-0 in the regional semifinal Thursday night (Oct. 31) in Solon after a first round bye.
Solon controlled the match (25-12, 25-18, 25-16), sending the Panthers home with a respectable record of 29-5.
The Lady Spartans improved to 30-2.
“They posed a challenge at the net with their height, and we really thought we could attack them with our serving to get them out of system as they run a two-person serve receive,” said head coach Peter Gustin. “We also really wanted to press our tempo against their bigger block.”
Solon dished up six service aces against the Panthers, including two by Taylor Nearad. Grace McCarty, Vik Meade, Jordan Runge and Rylee Smith each had one.
“We really focused on serving right down the line and making the passers move,” Gustin added. “Passing isn’t an easy job, especially when you have more room to cover.”
The Lady Spartans had 71 total serves compared to 47 for Mount Pleasant, and 38 kills against 23 for the Panthers.
Jordan Runge and Jordan Smith pulled the trigger most often for Solon, with 12 and 11 kills respectively. Kendra Cave, Meade and Nearad each had four. Nearad had 28 assists and was 10-13 from the service line.
Rylee Smith had 19 digs from the back row and was 21-22 from the service line. Vik Meade led in blocks with seven; the team as a whole had 13.
“In the postseason, successful teams have to be poised and have to carry confidence, and I think that quality was evident in our girls against Mount Pleasant,” Gustin said. “It does become quite a bit like a game of chess because teams have seen each other and received scouting reports from other programs, and there is more time in-between to prepare for the opposing team’s strengths and weaknesses.”
But Gustin said the CCA team the Spartans played back in August is not the one they’ll be facing Tuesday.
“Going back to that game tape does no good because we are both such different teams at this point in the season,” he said. “We look to see them really challenge us on Tuesday, but we’ll be equipped to respond.”