ROCK FALLS – Enthusiasm was high for Senior Night inside Tabor Gym ahead of Thursday night’s Big Northern Conference match between Dixon and Rock Falls, but the home team started the first set flat.
The Rockets slowly regained control to take the first, and dominated at the net in the second to beat the Duchesses 25-18, 25-14.
“I think sometimes we overthink,” Rock Falls coach Sheila Mammosser said. “We’re at the top of the conference, and we want to maintain that. Sometimes we let up, and we can’t do that. I fell like the whole night was flat, so we’ll take a win even if it’s ugly.”
The Rockets moved to 8-0 in Big Northern play, and 24-3 overall. Dixon fell to .500 in the league at 4-4, and 13-15 overall.
The Duchesses took an early 6-5 lead after an ace by Taylor Spellman. Back-to-back kills by Brenna Melvin made it 9-7 Dixon, and forced a Rocket timeout.
A kill each for Maya Sands and Elise Moeller tied the first set at 9-all, then the two squads traded points.
But the Duchesses weren’t as efficient hitting down the stretch in the first set despite a solid effort by backup setter India Thompson.
Rock Falls’ defense then started to regain its composure.
“India did a fantastic job for us, and we got a lot of quality swings,” Dixon coach Bunyan Cocar said. “Give Rock Falls credit. They picked up a lot of stuff that we normally have go down. I thought we played every point pretty well. ”
A kill by Kenzie Olson stretched the Rockets’ lead to 19-15, Vanessa Romo slammed a kill to force set point, and a stuff block by Moeller capped the first.
Rock Falls started the second set with two hitting errors, then rattled off four straight kills. A stuff block by Olson made it 7-4 Rockets, and Madison Arickx served up an ace to increase the advantage to 12-6.
Dixon’s Tiana Tichler hammered a kill and Jozie Shaner served an ace to cut it to 12-8, but the Rockets responded with three straight points. Miscommunication plagued the Duchesses at crucial points in the match, particularly in handling the third hit when the offense was out of system.
“We just have to put it all together and play smart,” Cocar said. “Rock Falls is a really smart team, and they showed it. They recognize things really quick, and I’m hoping we can instill that in our girls. That’s something for us to aspire to be.”
Olson was a force at the net, recording seven of her match-high 10 kills and three of her match-high four blocks in the second set.
“Our mindset has always been to put it away in two, never let it go to three,” Olson said. “Everyone picked it up a bit, and we said in our huddle to fire up the intensity. Once our back row passes and our setters get it up, it’s so much easier to put the ball away.”
Maya Sands gently tapped a free ball to the floor to close the match. Rock Falls out-killed Dixon 31-15, but Mammosser was pleased with her team’s passing after a sluggish start.
Gracie Janssen made a spot start on Senior Night, and helped out with six digs and several passes that resulted in kills.
“Gracie really picked up the defense,” Mammosser said. “Maddie Sands normally plays all six rotations, and she struggled a little bit. So Gracie played more and did a great job in the back row.”
Arickx also had six digs for the Rockets, while Payton Johnson chipped in five digs for Rock Falls’ defense. Moeller registered six kills, six digs and a block. Audra Goff contributed 10 assists, six digs and a kill. Maya Sands was balanced with five kills, three assists and three digs. Romo pitched in four kills, three digs, an assist and a block.
Thompson finished with a match-high 12 assists in place of Emma Carlson, who was out sick. Melvin recorded six kills, five digs and a block, while Juliana Rotella had six digs and four kills for the Duchesses. Tiana Tichler added five digs, three kills and a block. Madisyn Rubright paced the Dixon defense with 12 digs, while Kayla Callison provided seven digs.
Rock Falls def. Dixon 25-18, 25-14
Star of the match: Kenzie Olson, Rock Falls, 10 kills, 4 blocks, 1 dig
Key performers: Brenna Melvin, Dixon, 6 kills, 5 digs, 1 block; India Thompson, Dixon, 12 assists; Elise Moeller, RF, 6 kills, 6 digs, 1 block; Maya Sands, RF, 5 kills, 3 assists, 3 digs; Audra Goff, RF, 10 assists, 6 digs, 1 kill
Up next: Rock Falls at Eastland Tournament, 8:30 a.m. Saturday; Geneseo at Dixon, 6 p.m. Monday