CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Solon's best player hit a sizzling .643.
The Spartans scored the first 12 — count 'em, 12 — points of the match.
And when its coach was asked if it was Solon's best performance of the year, he repeated the question because he was still pondering it.
“Best performance of the year,” Peter Gustin said before coming to a decision. “Minus the serving, yes.”
Sixth-rated Solon's 10 missed serves weren't a big factor because the Spartans did almost everything else to perfection. And No. 6 Harlan Community picked the unfortunate time to be on the other side of the net Wednesday, as the Spartans dazzled in a 25-11, 25-20, 25-20 Class 4-A state quarterfinal volleyball win at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena.
“I think they played extremely well,” Harlan coach Angie Spangenberg said. “They passed well. They were very scrappy in the back row.”
Solon (32-4) advanced to Friday's 1:45 p.m. semifinal against the Sioux City Heelan/West Delaware winner. Harlan, tri-champions of the Hawkeye Ten Conference, closed at 32-6 in its second straight state appearance and fifth overall. They are still seeking their first state victory.
When the Cyclones finally emerged from their locker room, most of them were shedding tears.
“It's such a close team,” Spangenberg said. “They're close with the seniors, and we talked a lot about how things don't always go the way you want them to in life and in athletics. You've just got to bounce (back). You learn from it and move on.”
Even when it didn't take a full rip, virtually everything Solon did was right, as the Spartans hit .364 as a team to Harlan's .036. Bradley recruit Kelsey Cave, a 6-foot-2 middle, finished with 10 kills and a .643 kill efficiency. Outsides Kelsey Hinrichs and Jordan Runge both hit .421 and combined for 18 kills.
“It's something that could be expected from this team, how hard we work and the mental toughness I think we show every match,” said Gustin, in his first year. “So in that sense, it's not unexpected. But it is in the sense that it's a big state tournament like this, to come out that strong and that consistent.”
Despite the disastrous first set, Harlan had a chance to even the match in the second. It trailed just 16-14 after Josie Esser's kill. But Cave answered with a pair of kills and soon it was 19-14.
Trailing 21-18, Solon hit one wide. But Harlan was called in the net. It was that kind of night for the Cyclones.
In the third set, Harlan trailed 19-18. But Solon rattled off five of the next six points, giving it a match point. Cave delivered, ending Harlan's season.
The 6-1 Schaben, one of the state's top hitters, was held to nine kills and a .100 hitting percentage. She faced double and triple blocks, and Solon got touches and blocks on several of her swings.
“We've been going up against our coaches in practice, and they simulate what it's going to be like,” Cave said of her team's blocking success. “We were predicted to lose this game, so we really wanted to come out and show the state what we're made of.”
Harlan graduates Esser, Lauren Larsen and Liz Riessen and set a school record for wins.
“I hope that our kids look back and don't think about this last match forever,” Spangenberg said. “Because we had a great season.”
Harlan will return a tremendous amount of talent next year, as it seeks that elusive first state win.
“It's going to happen,” Spangenberg said.
Solon (32-4)......................25 25 25
Harlan (32-6).....................11 20 20
S (kills-aces-blocks): Rylee Smith 0-2-0, Kelsey Cave 10-0-1, Taylor Nearad 0-0-0, Emma Rickels 1-0-1, Kelsey Hinrichs 8-3-0, Jordan Smith 10-1-2, Jordan Runge 10-0-4, Emily Ira 0-0-0, Vik Meade 2-0-4.
H: Asia Kloewer 0-0-0, Liz Riessen 0-0-0, Jess Schaben 9-1-3, Jordyn Moser 0-0-0, Elle Kloewer 2-0-1, Kenzie Swanson 0-0-0, Ana Petersen 0-0-0, Lauren Larsen 2-0-0, Taylor Wagner 3-0-1, Josie Esser 3-0-1, Taylor Frederick 4-0-1.
Set assists: S, Rickels 36, Runge 3, J. Smith 2; H, Swanson 12, Riessen 9, A. Kloewer 1. Digs: S, R. Smith 15, Nearad 6, Hinrichs 5, Rickels 2, J. Smith 2, Ira 2, Meade 1, Runge 1. H, Larsen 8, A. Kloewer 6, Schaben 6, Frederick 5, Esser 4, Riessen 4, E. Kloewer 1.
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