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Lady Spartans make some noise against ranked opponents

Solon Economist
SOLON– The Lady Spartans swept Anamosa to win their home opener, but it may be what they did over the weekend that’s more impressive.
Solon’s varsity volleyball squad jumped out to a 4-1 start with wins over Liberty High, Williamsburg and Anamosa.
But Solon Head Coach Sarah Ferin was just as excited about going 1-3 at a weekend tournament at Cedar Rapids Washington.
“Don’t let that fool you, we hung with some big dogs,” Ferin said of the tournament.
The Lady Spartans overcame an 0-1 deficit to defeat host Cedar Rapids Washington (the No. 15 team in 5A), 2-1, and put a scare into No. 1 (4A) Cedar Rapids Xavier before running out of gas against No. 13 (4A) Marion.
Solon was retired by Xavier, 2-1, but took the first game, 25-23, and tested the Saints in the second before falling, 25-23. The third game was all Xavier, 15-5.
Solon also hung tough against Johnston with 21-18 and 22-20 losses.
“It would have been great to walk away with a win over Johnston or Xavier, but the strides the players are making will start paying off soon,” Ferin said. “We have work to do but the difference between last year and now is night and day.”
The Lady Spartans continued to shine at the service stripe, amassing six ace serves against Washington and eight in a losing effort with Xavier.
“Our serving has been a big focus at practice– we are going for aggressive, well-placed balls and I think we are seeing the benefits for sure,” Ferin noted. “We have some strong servers who can take the other team out of system and that’s the plan.”
Facing Washington, junior Raysa Garbes racked up four aces, while junior Rachael Nelson added two. Nelson dished up three to Xavier, while senior Grace Keith nailed two.
Solon served at a 90 percent or better rate throughout the tournament.
At Williamsburg Aug. 29, the Lady Spartans cranked out 12 aces, with Garbes (five), Keith (three), junior Hannah Kramer (three on a perfect 20-20 at the line) and junior Taylor Moore (one) all getting into the act.
Solon took the first game, 25-17, but the Raiders rebounded to knot the match with a 25-18 win in the second. Solon seized control, taking the third and fourth games by identical 25-20 scores for the 3-1 win.
Keith, Nelson and junior Abby Smith each had seven kills for the Lady Spartans. Nelson added 14 assists and 19 digs to lead the team in both categories.
Freshman Lauren Schrock had the Raiders’ number at the net with two solo blocks and seven block assists. Junior Kate Benzing added five block assists and the Lady Spartans were credited with 23 total.
“We are definitely much more confident this year, able to communicate better as well,” Ferin said of her team. “I think it’s a combination of getting to know the players and hard work– they have put in a lot of time and have really started trusting each other.”
Solon has spent much of the early season on the road and that will continue well into September.
After facing off with the Mount Vernon Mustangs Sept. 5, the Lady Spartans spend a weekend at a Marion tournament and hit the road for Manchester and a date with West Delaware Tuesday, Sept. 12. Solon travels to Maquoketa Tuesday, Sept. 19, before returning home to host Dyersville Beckman Tuesday, Sept. 26.