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Nearad, Smith help power Solon semifinal win

CEDAR RAPIDS– Taylor Nearad doesn’t have a name for her serve. Maybe she should think of one.
“My dad calls it the curvy serve,” Nearad said.
Nearad’s sizzling, spinning serves helped Solon’s volleyball team wrest control of a Class 3A semifinal from third-ranked Nevada Thursday, Nov. 13, propelling the Lady Spartans into a championship game for the third straight year.
Nearad’s nine aces and fellow senior Jordan Smith’s 18 kills fueled a Solon attack that ended up sweeping the Cubs 25-20, 25-13, 25-21
“Every single match we’ve been getting better and better,” Solon head coach Peter Gustin said of his team’s progress through the tournament.
The Lady Spartans swept Iowa Falls in a quarterfinal match at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, while Nevada did the same to West Liberty on the other side of the bracket.
Solon stumbled out of the gates, as service errors and other mistakes compounded, to give the Cubs a 13-11 lead.
After a Solon time-out, a soft shot by freshman Grace Keith found an open patch of court, and Nearad stepped to the service line to deliver three straight aces and the Lady Spartans rolled off eight straight points.
Nevada managed to tie the set at 18-18 thanks to a series of Solon kill errors, but after a time-out, the Lady Spartans got back into system and senior Jordan Runge delivered a big kill.
Keith held serve for Solon, stringing together points until it was 22-18.
A block by Runge made it 23-19, and Smith delivered a big kill to bring Solon to game point.
The Lady Spartans started spreading the ball around in the second set. Runge, Smith and Josey Hajek all had early kills, but the two teams were still knotted until Smith stepped to the service line and delivered two aces.
A four-point lead became a five-point lead, and a five-point lead became a six-point lead, and suddenly the Lady Spartans were rolling.
With Runge serving, Solon rattled off seven straight points, five of them ending with Smith on the offensive attack, and Solon was again at game point, 24-12. A Smith kill put it away.
Nevada did not want to go quietly, however.
The third and final set featured a few long, drawn-out points; some of them falling on Nevada’s side, some of them on Solon’s.
The Lady Spartans were trailing 12-9 when Nearad uncorked her screwball again. Three straight points rang up without a single Nevada return, and two consecutive kills by Keith gave Solon the 14-12 lead.
From there, it was a steady march to the finish line for Solon. For every point Nevada claimed, the Lady Spartans were there to answer with two more. A big kill by Smith was followed by a Runge ace that licked the back stripe, although the Cubs managed to close the gap to two points, 20-18.
But Smith delivered two more kills, and Nearad closed it out at the service line for Solon.