By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
SOLON – Every season starts with questions.
Even the best teams and most successful programs enter each new season with at least a few unanswered questions.
Who steps into a new position or how does a player react to a new role?
At Solon, one of the most successful programs in the state over the past several years the question everyone wants to know is always the same?
“I don’t think we are ever asked, how good are you going to be this year? It’s always how are you going to end up at state?” Solon senior Jess Heick said. “People always want to look forward to the end.”
There’s a good reason fans in Solon wonder what the Spartans will do at the state tournament each year.
In four seasons under head coach Jim White the Spartans have finished no worse than sixth at state and been in the state semifinals each of the past three seasons.
Solon is off to a 3-1 start this season and after returning six full-time starters from a team that went 34-10 and finished third at the 3A state tournament a year ago.
The Spartans aren’t fast forwarding to July at Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge yet but that is the expectation that has been built in Solon
“I am not going to limit these guys,” White said. “They are thinking big thoughts and I’m not going to put a limit on what they can do.”
There are questions for Solon this season, namely who steps into the voids left by graduated all-staters Monika Bevans and Sydney Lawson but there are plenty of answers left on a roster brimming with talent.
The lineup returns two of the best in 3A in seniors Bryn Hanrahan and Jess Heick.
An Iowa State recruit, Hanrahan is a four-time all-state pick already and hit .438 with 53 runs and 42 RBI last season.
The centerfielder is the top returner in a Solon lineup that ranked in the top five in batting average, hits, runs and home runs last season.
“Our lineup has the chance to be really special this season,” Hanrahan said. “We have a lot more speed than we have had in the past and everyone in our lineup can still hit for power.
The primary source of power so far this season has been Heick, who is already nearly halfway to season home run total of eight from last year with three in her first four games.
A four-year starter, Heick hit .420 and drove in 54 runs last season.
Sophomores Taylor Moore (.360) and Taylor Ryan (.412) and junior Madison Rogers (.326) all return after hitting over .325 a year ago.
With seniors Tara Lance, McKenna Miller and Haley Kluesner also back with experience the Solon lineup is as deep as it is talented.
“I think the middle end of our lineup everyone has stepped up this year,” Heick said. “This year we have a lot more speed in our lineup than we have had in the past so that definitely helps us a little bit.”
Miller returns in the circle after going 22-5 and posting a 2.34 ERA in her first season in the number one spot a year ago.
Freshman Kayla West (9-3, 1.06) also returns with varsity experience.
“I think we are all working really hard and if we all buy into the philosophy this year that we can achieve our goals hopefully and keep working every day to get better,” Miller said. “That’s how we look at it, we don’t look at the end we just try to get better every day.”
That plan worked well for Solon last season as the Spartans played their best softball in Fort Dodge.
Solon fell to 3A preseason number one ranked Davenport Assumption 5-2 on a walk-off home run in the state semifinals last season.
“I think last year it was kind of almost a rebuilding year for us in a sense but by the end of the season we were ready to scrap our way as far as we could,” Heick said. “Obviously we didn’t want to fall short in the game against Assumption but that just gives us a whole lot more motivation this year to keep pushing.”