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Spartans spoil Liberty volleyball debut

Solon rolls 3-1 over Liberty High in Lightning Bolts’ new gym
Solon’s Taylor Moore (left), Grace Keith and Raysa Garbes scramble for the ball Tuesday, Aug. 22, at Liberty High, in North Liberty. The Lady Spartans grounded the Lightning, 3-1, in the season opener and first varsity match, at Liberty. (photo by Chris Umscheid)

NORTH LIBERTY– It didn’t take long for the Lady Spartans to be in the spotlight.
The Solon varsity volleyball squad helped Liberty High in North Liberty usher in a new age Tuesday, Aug. 22, when the Liberty High Lightning took to the volleyball court for the first time in their brand new school.
“It was a very exciting experience– the crowd was big and the noise was loud,” said Solon Head Volleyball Coach Sarah Ferin. “The girls came out a little nervous but we had talked about the atmosphere and to just refocus and control what we can and eventually we calmed down.”
The Lightning Bolts are fielding sophomore and varsity squads this year after dressing a freshman team last year at Iowa City West High.
The Solon Lady Spartans took on the Bolts to open the season in a non-conference match-up and swept the Bolts with 3-1 wins by both the sophomores and varsity.
“Liberty did pack a whole lot of people in the gym and that was pretty impressive,” Ferin added.
Liberty is unaffiliated this year, joining the Mississippi Valley Conference (MVC) in 2018.
Solon won the first sophomore game, 25-23, but dropped the second to the Lightning, 25-21. Solon took the next two, 25-20 and 25-11.
The varsity Lady Spartans took their first set, 30-28, the Bolts pulled off a 26-24 win in the second set, but again Solon rolled with 25-16 and 25-20 wins.
Junior Rachael Nelson led Solon with 14 kills, with another dozen from senior Grace Keith.
“I was really happy with our overall performance,” Ferin said. “We are trying to stay aggressive even in the tight moments and we stuck to that plan– that 30-28 game was pretty exciting. We are working on some different speeds for our sets and still working on the kinks between the hitters and setters but it’s coming along and in a few weeks the hard work is really going to pay off.”
Nelson added 19 assists, while junior Raysa Garbes added 15. Junior Taylor Moore led the team in digs with 23, while senior Grace Keith and junior Abby Smith each had 10.
Garbes, Keith, Moore and Smith combined to go 58-63 at the service line with five aces over the four games.

Two days later, the Lady Spartans split with Clear Creek Amana (CCA) and Center Point-Urbana (CP-U) at a quad meet hosted by Mount Vernon Aug. 24.
Solon went to extra points in the game against the Clippers , but pulled off a 27-25 win. The Lady Spartans rolled 25-12 in the second game to defeat CCA, 2-0.
Keith had six kills to pace the team, with freshman Lauren Schrock (five) and Nelson (four) right behind. Nelson also had six assists, seven digs and four service aces. Keith had nine digs, while Smith added eight, and Moore seven.
Serving continued to be a strong point for Solon, with seven aces total and four players (Keith, junior Hannah Kramer, Moore and Smith) perfect from the line (with at least seven serves).
Junior Kate Benzing added three blocks (two solo) and the Lady Spartans had six overall.
“Our blockers have been working really hard to get touches on the ball and help our defense out and I think we are making good progress there as well as our serving,” Ferin said. “It’s really important to play our game no matter the score so the players get used to take those risks instead of backing down.”
The tables turned against the Stormin’ Pointers, and it was Solon’s turn to be on the short end of a close game, dropping the first game 25-22. CP-U would maintain the edge in the second game, 25-19, to sweep the Lady Spartans.
Keith had six kills and eight digs, while Garbes added five assists, four digs and a service ace. Solon had seven aces for the match and connected with 88 percent of its attempts. Four of the aces belonged to Moore, who was 9-10 at the stripe.
“Things are progressing really well, the more we play the more comfortable we become with each other,” Ferin said. “We have the capability to spread the ball out more this year and we want to take advantage of that.”
The Lady Spartans host Anamosa on Thursday, Aug. 31, at 7:30 p.m. in a WaMaC match-up and compete in Cedar Rapids Washington’s invitational on Saturday, Sept. 2, starting at 9 a.m. The Lady Spartans travel to Mount Vernon Tuesday, Sept. 5, for a 7:30 p.m. match against the Lady Mustangs.