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Conference champs

Lady Spartans avenge loss to West Delaware in final

MARION– It was a clean sweep for the Lady Spartans at last week’s WaMaC volleyball tournament.
Solon didn’t drop a set in pool or bracket play, outlasting both Marion and West Delaware in the semifinals and finals at Marion Thursday night.
The Lady Spartans defeated Benton Community (21-7, 21-10), DeWitt Central (21-10, 21-13) and Marion (21-14, 21-18) in pool play Tuesday at Manchester, then faced Dyersville Beckman (25-13, 25-19), Marion (25-22, 25-22) and then West Delaware (25-23, 25-22) in the highly contested championship bracket.
“The West Delaware match was as good as it gets,” said head coach Peter Gustin. “We trailed in both sets by five, yet we crawled back. I wouldn’t call it getting revenge, but it certainly made for a nice turnaround when taking into account how poorly we played against them in Manchester.”
West Delaware prevented Solon from claiming the regular season WaMaC East title Oct. 10.
“Our blocking was phenomenal and we were able to serve them out of system for most of the match,” Gustin said. “They (West Delaware) played incredible defense as usual, but we were able to win more of the extended rallies.”
Junior Jordan Runge led the team in kills with nine, but balanced offense came from Kendra Cave (six), Vik Meade (five) and Jordan Smith (four).
Taylor Nearad came away with 20 assists, nine digs and three blocks, while also serving 12-13 and one ace.
Rylee Smith had 14 digs to lead the team.
“Rylee had an incredible tournament,” Gustin said. “It’s amazing to see how her energy picks up when we are in tight matches with challenging opponents.”
The Lady Spartans also racked up 12 blocks against West Delaware, with three each from Nearad, Meade and Maegan Bruene.
“Our blocking has really improved over the course of the past few weeks, and it really made a difference in the championship match against West Delaware,” Gustin observed. “On the other hand, we struggled a bit offensively because we weren’t making smart plays. We tried too often to take shots with high risk and low reward.”
It was also a tooth-and-nail match against the Marion Indians in the semifinals.
The Lady Spartans saw a three-point lead turn into a two-point deficit in the first game, but were able to score five unanswered points to take a 19-16 lead.
“Marion finally started finding a few ways to get to us defensively, and they played clean volleyball,” Gustin said. “When push came to shove, we were able to step up and finish.”
Runge again led the offense with 12 kills, followed by Jordan Smith with eight.
Nearad had 25 assists and served in double-digits, along with Meade. Meade, Nearad, Bruene and Runge each had two blocks. Rylee Smith had 15 digs.
“Beating a team three to four times a year is incredibly tough, and Marion really gave us a run for our money,” Gustin said. “To beat a team like them four times says a lot about our squad and their drive to win.”
For Solon’s volleyball program, the postseason won’t start until Thursday, Oct. 31, when the Lady Spartans host a Class 4A Region 8 semifinal with either Keokuk or Mount Pleasant. The winner advances to a Tuesday, Nov. 5, regional final at Cedar Rapids Washington, with a berth in the state tournament at stake.