Your Prep Sports
NORTH LIBERTY – Liberty High got the start it wanted in its program debut on Tuesday but Solon made sure the Lightning didn’t get the finish they were after.
Solon rallied from a 12-2 deficit to win the opening set on its way to a 30-28, 24-26, 25-16, 25-20 victory that spoiled the first varsity match in Liberty High program history.
“We knew it was going to be loud and we knew there were going to be a lot of people and I told them if we lose the first one that is just us getting acclimated,” Solon coach Sarah Ferin said. “I was amazingly impressed with what our kids did in that first set.”
Rachael Nelson had 13 kills and Grace Keith added 10 for Solon (1-0) as the Spartans won their season opener for the first time since 2014.
Nelson and Keith each had seven kills in the final two sets to help Solon pull away.
“The last two sets I think we just had some swag in us,” Keith said. “We just knew in our minds that we could do it.”
Liberty High got a match-high 14 kills from sophomore LeeAnn Potter and eight kills and five ace serves from freshman Olivia Slattery but it wasn’t quite enough to secure the first win in program history.
“For as young as we are I think this is the way that we can play all year,” Liberty coach Randy Dolson said. “We showed some grit, a lot of hustle a lot of heart. We were positive with each other and I think we can be competitive. I think we will be fine.”
Liberty High used aggressive serving to take an early 12-2 lead and bring a boisterous opening night crowd to its feet.
Seven of the first 12 points for Liberty High came via ace serves as Piper Koski and Slattery each had a pair of aces and Kaylee Berns had three in a 12-2 run to open the match.
Solon didn’t go away.
The Spartans clawed back into the opening set with a 9-1 run and finally pulled even at 15-all on a Nelson ace.
The opening set went back-and-forth until Solon scored the final three points to earn a 30-28 win.
“In my opinion that really showed our true colors,” Keith said. “I think that is amazing the fact that we won that. That was a good start.”
With the score tied at 28-all Abby Smith pounded back-to-back kills to give Solon the momentum and one set to none edge.
“Winning that first set really built some momentum,” Nelson said. “That was important.”
Liberty rallied back to win the second set 26-24 on a Jordyn Stammeyer kill but the final two sets were all Spartans.
Keith had four kills in a 25-16 win in the third set, two of which came during a 4-0 Solon spurt that turned a 12-11 lead into a 16-11 margin.
“The last two sets we had more confidence in ourselves,” Keith said. “We knew we could do it and we had all the kinks worked out and just played as a team.”
Solon was a different team in the final two sets.
After allowing seven ace serves in the first set alone the Spartans gave up just five aces the rest of the way.
“We didn’t change anything we just got more consistent,” Nelson said. “We wanted to improve our serve receive a little bit and we did that.”
Solon had 17 kills in the first two and 24 in the final two and all eight of the ace blocks for the Spartans came during wins in the final two sets.
“Obviously we are going to grow, there are some things we need to work on there are a lot of things that they need to learn just from the pace of the game,” Dolson said. “I think the biggest thing that hurt us is when they did the quicks to the outside, we have to get used to that kind of speed.
Sophomore Katie Yi had five of her seven kills in the final two sets while freshman Lauren Schrock had three kills and two aces all in the last two sets.
“We really talked about getting over our errors and limiting runs,” Ferin said. “We got our block up and we had most of our blocks in the last two sets.”
Liberty High 28 26 16 20
Solon 30 24 25 25
Grace Keith 10-1-1, Kate Benzing 3-0-1, Rachael Nelson 13-2-2, Abby Smith 5-2-0, Lauren Schrock 3-0-2, Katie Yi 7-2-1, Team 41-7-7.
Assists – Rachael Nelson 17, Raysa Garbes 13.
Lauren Roman 1-0-0, Olivia Slattery 8-5-1, Piper Koski 1-3-1, Grace Crimmins 2-0-0, LeeAnn Potter 14-0-1, Maya Kerschen 4-0-0, Jordyn Stammeyer 3-0-0, Kaylee Berns 1-4-0, Team 34-12-3.
Assists – Grace Crimmins 27.