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Solon volleyball preview

Coach Ferin hopes to improve team record

SOLON– Even after a lifetime devoted to the sport, it’s taken a year for Sarah Ferin to get her bearings as head coach of the Solon varsity volleyball team.
“I think last year with just coming in and having a large amount of seniors and playing people in different spots, it took the entire season for people to start trusting me,” she shared. “Now it’s night and day from last year already. The girls are having fun.”
Ferin acquired the team last year from Peter Gustin, who took a coaching position at the University of Iowa. Gustin led the Lady Spartans to three state appearances and a Class 3A championship title– the first in school history– against Mount Vernon before his final 10-23 season in 2015.
The Solon girls didn’t improve much last fall under Ferin’s leadership, ending her premiere season with an 8-27 record. Ferin said the team will be working on small goals this year.
“We always want to go to state; that’s the end goal,” said Ferin. “But we’re really looking to just improve our record at this point.”
She said poor tournament performance was a major contributing factor to last year’s less-than-stellar season.
“Leaving a tournament 1-4 or 0-4 on the day really hurt our record,” she said. “Our main focus is to get our conference wins and clean it up at the tournaments and come home with more wins.”
The girls started doing open gyms twice a week in January and kicked it up to three times during the summer, Ferin said.
“I told them that we’re going to have to dig in and learn everything about each other and how we function and do well with each other,” she shared. “This summer has been a lot easier knowing the girls’ cues, when they’re tired or frustrated. Now I know when to push and when to give in a little.”
A .500 season would make her happy, she admitted.
“If I could get to like a 20-10 or 15-14 record, that would be a large improvement,” she said. “I think with who we have now, and just everybody knowing each other after the season we should be able to do that.”
The squad lost six seniors to graduation, including key hitter Jessica Heick, who led her teammates in kills (188), aces (48) and digs (175). Others who graduated were Dani Carter, Ali Diersen, Paige Gallagher, Tara Lance and Grace McCarty.
Returning starters include seniors Grace Keith and Ashley Ford, as well as juniors Abby Smith, Rachael Nelson, Raysa Garbes and Taylor Noonan. Keith drove the Lady Spartans last season alongside Heick, with 172 kills, 28 aces, 148 digs, 23 blocks and a serving percentage of 92 percent.
“She really likes high balls, so we’re working to pull them down,” Ferin said about Keith. “She’ll be a big leader.”
Smith excelled as a middle hitter last season, with 28 blocks, but will transition to the outside this year. Nelson and Garbes are both returning setters, who led in assists, with 313 and 184, respectively.
“We’re trying to get our offense quicker,” said Ferin. “We’ve been hitting that hard.”
The addition of junior Kate Benzing and freshman Lauren Schrock, both 6-foot-tall middle hitters, should add to that objective, she added.
“Obviously we gain height,” she said. “Everyone has grown this summer, gotten taller and strong. That will fill us out.”
The Lady Spartans will be changing up their defense as well, she added.
“We’re going to a perimeter defense instead of a rotation defense,” she explained. “We’ve been working out the kinks, figuring out who needs to go where.”
However, she noted, junior Taylor Moore– the team’s libero– will most definitely stick to her position as a defensive specialist.
“She’s quick and reads the ball well,” said Ferin. “She’s a big playmaker in our back row.”
Rounding out the roster are seniors Lauren Roeder (setter), Chloe Thole (right side hitter) and Makayla Suchomel (defensive specialist), junior Elli Becicka (outside/right side hitter), and sophomore Katie Yi (middle/right side hitter).
“The team saying is ‘give to get’ this season,” said Ferin. “They are really focusing attention on the team and what each player brings to every practice. We’re lucky enough to have five seniors on our roster this year and they have all shown great leadership.”
The Lady Spartans play their first match Tuesday, Aug. 22, at 7 p.m. against the Liberty Lightning at Liberty High in North Liberty, followed by a quad with Center Point-Urbana and Clear Creek Amana at Mount Vernon on Thursday, Aug. 24, at 6 p.m.

Solon Varsity Volleyball 2017 Schedule
Tuesday, Aug. 22 at Liberty High 7 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 24 quad at Mt. Vernon with Center Point-Urbana and CCA 6 p.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 29 at Williamsburg 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 31 vs. Anamosa at home 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 2 CR Washington invitational 9 a.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 5 at Mt. Vernon 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 9 Linn-Mar invitational 9 a.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 12 at West Delaware 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 19 at Maquoketa 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 26 vs. Beckman Catholic at home 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 30 tournament at Waverly-Shell Rock 9 a.m.
Tuesday, Oct. 3 vs. Western Dubuque-Epworth at home 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 5 at Central DeWitt 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 7 tournament at Center Point-Urbana 8:30 a.m.
Tuesday, Oct. 10 WaMaC pool play at Maquoketa or South Tama 4 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 12 WaMaC tournament at Marion 4 p.m.