MENDOTA – While this is Rock Falls’ seniors last hurrah, it was a freshman that ignited the Rockets in Tuesday’s sectional semifinal.
Freshman Bailey O’Brien, the only non-senior starter for Rock Falls, put down four straight kills to end Game 1, propelling the Rockets to a 25-20, 25-16 sweep over LaSalle-Peru in the Class 3A Mendota Sectional semifinal.
“Bailey O’Brien was phenomenal. She was on fire,” said Rock Falls coach Sheila Mammosser, whose team got through a sectional semifinal for the first time in 3 years. “She played a complete game today.”
Rock Falls (28-10) advances to a sectional-championship showdown with Dunlap (19-14) at 7 p.m. Thursday at Mendota. The Rockets thumped Dunlap 20-7, 20-12 in pool play Oct. 6 at the Dixon Invitational.
Also at the Dixon Invite, Rock Falls lost to LaSalle-Peru (29-8) 20-17, 22-20 in pool play. That was then. Tuesday, the Rockets trailed for just five points.
“We played awesome. Everyone was so cohesive,” said Rock Falls’ Jordan Giddings, who had nine kills. “It felt great to overcome something that we haven’t been able to do these past 3 years.”
The win had extra meaning for Rock Falls, which was playing against former teammate Katie Olson.
“She’s my friend. We became good friends last year,” said the Rockets’ Linsey Brown, who had nine kills. “We just acted like she wasn’t over there.”
“It’s a little bittersweet,” coach Mammosser said. “I wish she was still on our side.”
Rock Falls went up 12-8, then 14-10 in Game 1. Giddings shook off an early foot injury and put down three straight kills to help grab the momentum. Brown and Morgan Mammosser (4 kills) also had three kills for the Rockets in the early going.
The Cavaliers pulled even at 18-all, and again at 19-all, setting the stage for O’Brien’s heroics. O’Brien had kills on five of the last six points of Game 1. She had all eight of her kills in the opening set.
Rock Falls raced to a 5-1 lead in Game 2 and never looked back. The flurry included a pair of Brown kills, a kill from Giddings and an ace from O’Brien.
LaSalle-Peru did not have a kill in Game 2 until the 19th point, making it 12-7. Soon, the Rockets ballooned the difference to double digits at 19-9, following a run that included another pair of kills by Giddings and an ace from Mammosser.
The Cavs whittled the margin to 22-16 before Rock Falls closed things out.
Star of the match: Jordan Giddings, Rock Falls, 9 kills
Key performers: Linsey Brown, Rock Falls, 9 kills; Bailey O’Brien, Rock Falls, 8 kills; Morgan Mammosser, Rock Falls, 4 kills
Up next: Class 3A Mendota Sectional championship, Rock Falls (28-10) vs. Dunlap (19-14), 7 p.m. Thursday