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Lady Spartans tip off winter season

Solon girls start with 3 of first 4 games at home
Brianna Smith tries to block a Maquoketa player’s path Feb. 3. (file photos by Doug Lindner)

By Jeff Hess
Solon Economist
SOLON– “We have had a great preseason. This group really wants to be coached and (is) willing to be all-in during the season in order to be successful!” Solon Head Coach Lisa Bishop said of this year’s varsity basketball team.
“They are working hard, having great effort and enthusiasm, and many of them are stepping up as leaders,” she said, citing returning players Brianna Smith, Gabby Marty, Erin Kerkhoff, Abby Smith, Saige Hauer, Jenna LeDage and Taylor Ryan.
This year’s team includes seniors Hailey Denny, Heather Vance, Brianna Smith and Sam Miller. Juniors include Vanessa Millman, Kenzie Pentico, Ashley Walsh, Saige Hauer, Taylor Ryan, Gabby Marty, Abby Smith and Erin Kerkhoff. The lone sophomore on the roster listed on QuikStats is Jenna LaDage.
Several players return with varsity experience from the 2016-17 season. Brianna Smith played in 22 games last season and finished the season shooting 35.6 percent from the field (47-132), 25.5 percent from the 3-point arc (13-51), 48.8 percent from the free throw line (20-41) and averaged 5.8 points per game. She amassed 11 assists and 21 steals while collecting 56 total rebounds to average 2.5 rebounds per game. Marty played in 22 games shooting 39.8 percent in 2-point range (37-93), 40.9 percent from the free throw line (18-44) and averaging 4.2 points per game. She posted three assists, 16 steals and five blocks while averaging 4.5 rebounds per game, 100 total for the season. Ryan played in 15 games, connecting with 24.6 percent of her field goals (16-65), 24.4 percent shooting 3-pointers (10-41) and went 5-11 from the free throw line (45.5 percent) averaging 3.1 points per game. She recorded 13 assists and eight steals while collecting 14 rebounds to average 0.9 per game. Kerkhoff saw action in 18 games, 11-40 shooting (27 percent) from the field and 41.2 percent from the free throw line (7-17) to average 1.6 points per game. She collected four assists and 19 steals while amassing 19 total rebounds averaging 1.1 per game. Miller played in only five games last season, going 23.1 percent shooting (3-13), 20 percent from beyond the arc (2-10), and averaged 1.6 points per game. She had three assists and one steal with six rebounds to average 1.2 per game. Hauer saw action in 12 games, shooting 18.2 percent from two-point range range (2-11) and was 42.9 percent from the free throw line (3-7) averaging 0.6 points per game. She recorded two assists and a block while posting 12 rebounds for the season to average one per game. Abby Smith played in 15 games shooting 20 percent from 2-point range and 50 percent from the free throw line (2-4), averaging 0.4 points per game. She had two assists and four steals while collecting 18 rebounds to average 1.2 per game..
Last season, the Lady Spartans went 8-14 in Coach Bishop’s second year as head coach. When asked about her time at the helm, progress and expectations for the future, Bishop responded, “It takes a few years to really see change in the program. I have been trying to invest in the youth programs more, as I really believe that is where the success of a program is built. I think anytime there are a lot of changes there can be growing pains. I have a growth mindset and I have confidence in what we are doing and how we are moving forward.”
Some of the faces helming the Spartans with Bishop have changed or changed position.
Danielle Herdliska has joined the coaching staff as an assistant.
Herdliska was a student-athlete in Solon from 2008-11. She also played AAU basketball for IBCA Select, Team Iowa, and All-Iowa Attack, and then her basketball and soccer career at Mount Mercy University. In her fifth year, she was a student assistant coach and ran all the Mount Mercy youth camps. She also coached Iowa Prep AAU. She just graduated with her BSN last May and is a nurse now at Mercy Iowa City.
“I have had the opportunity to get to know Danielle this past year and I am excited about her knowledge of the game, her tireless work ethic, and reliability,” Bishop said.
Coach Mark Sovers will continue to be on staff but will take over the development of younger players, Bishop noted. “He has been a part of Lady Spartan basketball for many years and provides a lot of experience and wisdom to our staff,” she said.
Coach Adam Stahle will serve as volunteer coach, Bishop said, providing “a dimension to our staff that is both extremely valuable to the players and coaches.”
All three assistants are Solon grads and have a lot of pride in Spartan athletics, she said.
When asked about the competition and schedule this season, Coach Bishop commented, “The WaMaC is always one of the toughest leagues in the state. Western Dubuque and Mount Vernon will likely have another strong team. I think we are going to surprise a lot of teams this year. But there is not a weak team in our schedule so we need to be prepared every night!”
The Lady Spartans started the regular season at home on Tuesday, Nov. 21, against Vinton Shellsburg and host South Tama on Tuesday, Nov. 28. Solon travels to Marion on Friday, Dec. 1, with junior varsity (JV) games beginning at 6 p.m. followed by the varsity matchup. On Saturday, Dec. 2, the Lady Spartans host the Washington Demons with JV basketball starting at noon followed by the varsity game.