TIFFIN– It got off to a bit of a rocky start.
Solon’s varsity volleyball team shook off some early-game rust and picked up a win in the opening match of the season last week.
The Lady Spartans started with a cross-conference, cross-county meeting of ranked 4A teams, traveling to Tiffin to take on Clear Creek Amana (CCA) last Thursday.
It took four games, but Solon came away with the win, 25-19, 25-27, 26-24, 25-19.
“We started the match off with tentative play in the back row and sluggish blocking,” said interim head coach Peter Gustin. “Set two was a tough loss; I believe we hit .285 as a team, which just doesn’t cut it, and after erasing a 24-20 deficit, we gave up two points to drop it.”
The third game was up for grabs until late in the scoring, when the Lady Spartans fended off a CCA game point to take control.
“During set three, our offense picked up, and we started picking up the balls that constantly hit the floor earlier in the match,” Gustin said. “Being the first match of the season, we expected those typical errors to occur, but we just got caught with too many of them early on in the first three sets. It wasn’t until the fourth set where we finally grabbed the momentum and ran away with it. We finally started playing Solon volleyball, and CCA, who played us incredibly tough for three sets, felt the pressure and the errors began to mount up on their side.”
Returning most of the team that made its first state tournament appearance last year, Solon is ranked No. 3 in the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union preseason poll. CCA rounded out the 4A rankings at 15th.
Kelsey Hinrichs led the team with 16 kills, followed closely by Kelsey Cave with 12. Jordan Runge and Jordan Smith each had nine kills, while Runge led the team in total blocks with six.
Libero Rylee Smith came up with 20 digs, while Taylor Nearad added 10. Setter Emma Rickels had 44 assists. The Lady Spartans were 73-85 at the service line, with Smith a perfect 17-17 with four aces.
Gustin was named interim head coach after the departure of head coach Kurt Trout very early in the practice schedule.
“We’re learning together every day and getting better as a team every day,” he said. “The amount of talent, knowledge, support, and trust within our program (players and coaching staff) is unique. We’ve set high standards and goals, and we understand there will be a learning curve and frustrations along the way; however, we are in this together, and our philosophy is to always move forward.”
Solon was scheduled to play at Durant Monday evening (Aug. 27), with a home opener Tuesday, Sept. 4, against Maquoketa.
“We really displayed the mental toughness this group has developed over the past few weeks,” Gustin continued. “When the nerves finally waned, our ability as a team became evident. The fourth set was a true testament to what we’re capable of at Solon every time we step on the court from here on out. We expect to build on this experience and to bring the same mentality to the court every point for the rest of the season.”