By Chris Umscheid
North Liberty Leader
CEDAR RAPIDS– The Solon Spartans will make their third consecutive state tournament appearance after defeating the Clear Creek Amana (CCA) Clippers in three games during a Class 4A regional final at Cedar Rapids Washington High School Tuesday, Nov. 4.
The Spartans won 25-18, 25-17 and 25-17 to earn the green state qualifier banner and head for a Tuesday, Nov. 12, battle with Indianola in the quarterfinal round at the US Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids.
The Clippers scored first when Natalie Brimeyer blocked a Maegan Bruene shot, then quickly trailed as the Spartans put up the points. Down 20-12 CCA coach Brain Bronzynski called for a timeout. The Clippers rallied with six more points in the first set, slowing down but not stopping the Spartans’ 1-0 win.
“It doesn’t feel like the score was as wide as it was,” Solon coach Peter Gustin said of the set. “They (CCA) played tough.”
Solon led early on in the second set, but the Clippers fought back and narrowed the deficit to three points, down 15-12. However the Spartans again pulled out the win to lead 2-0. “The 25-17, that was just seven serving errors,” Gustin said. “We made a lot of mistakes.”
The third set saw the Spartans jump to a 7-1 lead prompting Bronzynski to call for another timeout. Solon put up three more points to one Creek point, leading the Clippers’ coach to take another timeout. Despite a rally the Clippers were still down 24-14 when it at first appeared Solon had gotten the game and match point. The Spartan bench cleared and Solon players started hugging, high-fiving and congratulating each other. And then the referee signaled the point for CCA. A three-point run by CCA held-off the final Solon point for at least a few minutes, but in the end Solon got the 25th point.
“We came in with confidence that we would compete tonight and finish strong,” Gustin said. The keys to the win for Solon, he said were, “spreading the ball around, keeping our offense spread at the net and keeping their (CCA) blockers honest.”
Vik Meade and Jordan Runge accounted for 21 of Solon’s 41 kills, Taylor Nearad had 28 assists and Rylee Smith plowed through anything and everything for 19 digs. However, Gustin said one of the first things his players said after winning, was they needed to work even harder.
“They said we still have some things to improve on. ‘We have got to come back and work harder, because that’s not going to be good enough (at state).’ That’s a big difference from where we were earlier in the season. Now they’re craving that… hitting the floor, throwing elbows, getting the bruises. They’ll run their bodies through anything, especially Rylee (Smith).”
Bronzynski said the Clippers knew they were in for a tough night. “As a coaching staff, we understood that for us to upset Solon, we would have to have a perfect storm situation.” The coach said that meant a poor performance from the Spartans coupled with an exceptional night for the Clippers. “Solon played well,” he said, “and we were able to do some of the things that we prepared for, such as blocking on Jordan Smith.” But, he added, there were some players they weren’t able to defend against, such as middle player (Vik) Meade.
Solon takes a 31-2-0 record into the state tournament.
For the Clippers Brimeyer led with eight kills, Mackenzie Fuller had 13 assists and Alyssa Weldon made 16 digs. The Creek girls retire with a 23-10-0 record.
“The whole 2013 season has been a starting point for next fall since we return every single girl. We won more matches (23) this season than CCA has won since 1999, and we haven’t even begun to sort through the other records yet,” said Bronzynski. “All in all, it was a very satisfying fall with our Varsity, JV and both of our freshmen teams at .500 or significantly above.”
“Thinking about where they’re (CCA) going to be in a couple of years, and what they’ll bring to the conference, the WaMaC is going to be really, really strong, especially because of that team,” Gustin said.