Fort Madison makes run in last two sets, but Spartans too much in regional opener
BY JOHN BOHNENKAMP
SOLON — Time runs out on volleyball teams in October.
Kelly Knustrom was hoping the clock could tick a little while longer on Fort Madison.
The Bloodhounds finished Knustrom’s first season as head coach with a 25-12, 25-20, 25-21 loss to Solon in Tuesday’s Class 4A Region 8 quarterfinal.
The Spartans (15-22) advance to play Central DeWitt in Thursday’s semifinal.
Fort Madison finished 8-26.
“I wish I had two more weeks with them,” Knustrom said. “They are getting not just better with their skills, but they’re more volleyball-smart. They’re seeing things, coming around to that.”
That showed after the first game, when the Bloodhounds had a hard time hitting around Solon’s front line. Delaney Bombei and Maddie Manifold dominated at the net, especially during an early six-point run that gave Solon a 12-6 lead.
It was good to hear (when asked) in the huddle, ‘What are we learning? What do we know now?’” Knustrom said. “And they could answer quickly, and knew what needed to be changed. They were making changes on the fly, and earlier in the season we couldn’t have done that.”
The Bloodhounds started to get the Spartans off-balance. Fort Madison had an early 8-2 lead, with four points coming off tips that found openings in the Solon defense.
“We just talked about different spots that were open,” Knustrom said. “I thought in Game 1 we just kept hitting into their block quite a bit. We knew coming in they were a good blocked team.
“They’ve grown so much. Early in the season they couldn’t have made the adjustments they did.”
The Bloodhounds had a 16-14 lead, but Solon scored six consecutive points to take control of the game.
The third game was much of the same. Fort Madison fought back to trail 23-21, but Solon closed the match with kills from Manifold and Sophia Hoeper.
“It definitely wasn’t a lack of effort,” Knustrom said. “We played hard. We just weren’t going to go down without a fight.”
Alana Simpson had six kills and 17 digs, adding an 8-of-8 serving night with two aces. Anna Lynk had six kills. Eve Ruble had four kills and three digs. Molly Knipe had 13 assists and 11 digs. Lauryn Helmick was 10-of-10 serving with three aces. Madison Pirri was 5-of-5 serving and added 10 digs.
“I really appreciate the dedication shown by this team,” Knustrom said. “They were at practices. They worked hard. I threw in morning practices. I threw in weekend practices. And nobody questioned it. They all showed a level of commitment I wasn’t sure was going to happen so fast. I think that’s a huge step in the right direction.”