MOUNT VERNON– Solon is the conference champion.
The Lady Spartans went 6-0 through the WaMaC volleyball tournament over the course of two days last week, pulling out a 2-1 win over Maquoketa for the tournament title.
Solon’s varsity volleyball team ripped through Benton Community (21-13, 21-10) and Center Point-Urbana (21-8, 21-9) before a sterner test against West Delaware (25-23, 21-15) in pool play hosted by Center Point Tuesday, Oct. 9.
Bracket play began in Mount Vernon Thursday, with stiffer challenges ahead for the Lady Spartans.
The squad fought from behind against a tough Clear Creek Amana team (25-22, 25-17) and then took two more close games against Mount Vernon (26-24, 25-22) in the semifinals before facing Maquoketa in the championship.
“This team’s resilience has been a theme throughout the entire year,” said head coach Peter Gustin. “We’re never going to fold, no matter how far down we may be. With that being said, we made it extremely difficult on ourselves in the WaMaC tournament by committing error after error. It’s always a mental challenge when you can’t establish a rhythm on the court.”
Solon lost the first game in the championship match to the Cardinals but stormed back to take the second and third, 17-25, 25-15, 15-10.
Jordan Runge led Solon in the championship with 10 kills. Kelsey Hinrichs added nine, while Kelsey Cave made the most of her opportunities at the net, converting 7-11 attack attempts for a 64 percent efficiency rating.
Emma Rickels also added an impressive stat line with 28 assists, four digs and three aces on 12-13 services. Rylee Smith had 14 digs to lead that category.
“Going into the WaMaC tournament, we knew there would be tough battles the entire way through and that every team would be gunning for us,” Gustin said. “Coming out of it, I’m extremely proud of our girls and this program. The time and effort put in by all players and coaches to achieve this was evident in how hard we prepared and fought in that tournament.”
Solon started off bracket play Thursday against Clear Creek Amana, a team that pushed the Lady Spartans during the opening match of the season.
Solon fell behind early and had to battle back to take both games, thanks in part to some timely serving by Taylor Nearad and Jordan Smith. Both were perfect on serve attempts, and Smith had two aces and a lot of spin that signaled the end for the Clippers.
“Now we’re preparing for regionals,” Gustin observed. “Each team we see from here on out is going to give us their all and make us work to earn our way back to the state tournament. We’re more than up for that challenge.”
But first will be a wait of two weeks.
The No. 6 (4A) Lady Spartans received a first round bye and will face either Newton or Pella Thursday, Oct. 25, in a regional semifinal in Solon. The regional final will be Tuesday, Oct. 30, at Victor.