CEDAR RAPIDS– A disappointing end, but a valiant effort.
Solon’s Lady Spartans fell to No. 1 Harlan, 3-1, in the Class 4A volleyball championship match Friday, Nov. 15, at the US Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids.
An even first set that got away from Solon gave way to a breakdown in the second, and Solon found itself down 0-2 against Harlan and heavy hitter Jess Schaben. Schaben finished the game with 31 kills.
Solon held a seven-point lead in the second set, but Harlan closed to within three at 15-12, prompting a Solon time-out. Harlan went on to rattle off six unanswered points, many of them on Solon errors.
“The girls became tentative on offense and that led to a plethora of errors,” noted head coach Peter Gustin. “Unfortunately, we ran into a team with a juggernaut, and they played one pretty doggone good match against us. Our blocking was incredible, but the hitting errors really did us in.”
The Lady Spartans rallied to take the third set, 25-18, before losing the fourth 20-25.
“We adjusted well to their offense in the third set, and we finally started serving aggressively,” Gustin said. “The fourth set was nearly point-for-point, but again, we missed a couple of crucial serves followed by a few errors at the net. We needed to play a clean match, and unfortunately it just wasn’t our day.
“I truly thought we would come back and win the match after the second set,” Gustin said. “Our girls have been so resilient all year long.”
Jordan Runge led the team with 16 kills; Jordan Smith had 12. Taylor Nearad had 40 assists.
The Lady Spartans recorded 18 blocks, including six for Vik Meade and four for Nearad. Rylee Smith had 23 digs and Jordan Smith had 17.
Jordan Smith and Rylee Smith were named to the Class 4A All Tournament Team.
After the final point, Gustin gathered his players around him prior to the presentation of the second-place trophy.
“I told the girls I was sorry the outcome was not what we envisioned,” he said. “It’s so overwhelmingly difficult to send a lasting message in a moment of defeat. I wanted them to look around at each other and to celebrate what they had done collectively. Ultimately, I just wanted the girls to know how proud of them I was, and even more so, I wanted them to know how greatly they have impacted my life and teaching.”
Up until the final match, things had been going pretty smoothly for Solon in the 4A tourney.
The Spartans defeated Indianola 3-1 in the opening round of the state volleyball tournament in Cedar Rapids Tuesday, and swept Davenport Assumption Thursday in the semifinal.
After winning the first game against Indianola, 25-11, Solon stumbled and lost the second game, 21-25.
The girls bounced back promptly, winning the third and fourth games, 25-6, 25-18.
Jordan Runge had a stellar game with 21 kills to lead the Lady Spartans. Vik Meade added 10 kills.
“It feels so good, we’ve finally peaked for the most important part of the season,” Runge said after the opening match. “It’s just wonderful to see the team coming together as a whole.”
Rylee Smith dealt up seven aces, and Jordan Smith added six. The two also shared defensive digs with 23 and 13 respectively.
Back on track, Solon swept Davenport Assumption in the semifinal for the right to face Harlan in the championship.
Ten kills each from Jordans Runge and Smith paced Solon. After falling behind in set two, Jordan Smith hit a clutch kill and then later delivered an ace and near-ace to spark a rally.
“I really wanted to win and get back to the state championship,” Jordan Smith said after the match. “I think we were just determined to side-out right away so they couldn’t get a run so we could get it back,” she said.
Kills by Runge and Vik Meade and a big stuff at the net by Maegan Bruene put Solon ahead for good in third set of the 25-21, 25-22, 25-18 final.
Solon won the battle of the service errors, and that helped keep the girls in the second and third sets.
Though ahead in the second and third sets, Assumption was unable to put Solon away. Assumption’s Danielle Cabel had a game-high 13 kills, but also had nine kill errors. Late in the third, Assumption’s team deflated and the Lady Spartans rode the win to the final.
“There’s nothing to be ashamed of in being the state runner-up two years in a row,” said Gustin, summarizing the year.
At the beginning of the season, he told the team they had a great chance to accomplish more than last year, but it would take a collective effort and a far greater work ethic.
“In my eyes, the girls rose to the challenge and reached new heights,” he said. “I’m extremely proud of each girl in our program and extremely grateful for the outpouring of support shown throughout the community and student body this year. It truly shows how greatly these girls have affected the Solon community over the past few years.”
For photos from the Lady Spartan volleyball season, go to economist-leader.smugmug.com