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MY 2 CENTS: Learning how to win

Published: Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013 1:12 a.m. CST

I’ve jotted down a lot clichés in the thousands of pages of notebooks that I’ve used in my time at SVM.

Most of them never leave that space between the blue lines on white or yellow notepad paper, their final destination being the special storage unit under my desk. You know, the one that John, our janitor, empties on a daily basis for me.

Not that these clichés aren’t accurate, but I try to find the expressions from players and coaches that seem more original.

That being said, I held on to one clichéd quote after Thursday’s volleyball match between the Dixon Duchesses and the Geneseo Maple Leafs.

This one came from first-year coach Bunyan Cocar, as he discussed a match where the Duchesses had overcome a terrible second set to beat the Maple Leafs in three.

“We are still learning how to win,” Cocar said.

That’s one of those lines that, if I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times. If I had a dollar for each time I’ve been told it, I’d be sitting on a beach somewhere by now sipping on some kind of expensive imported ale.

But, I held this one back, because it was sort of a theme of the day for me.

Earlier in the day, I had a conversation with a Newman football fan over the phone about the column I wrote earlier this week.

We talked about a comment I made about the Comets sleepwalking through the first half of two games that I’d seen. I’ll stand by that observation.

The sideline in Weeks 1 and 4 just didn’t have the consistent enthusiasm I am used to from a Newman Comets team.

That doesn’t mean this group is underachieving. They are just young, and – gasp – learning what it takes to win at the varsity level. I’d put money on them getting it right by the playoffs.

The conversation turned to the Rock Falls football team, and the fan asked what it would take to turn around their season and program.

I have to shrug my shoulders. A lot of guys with more football knowledge and experience have tried with the Rockets. Maybe Scott Berge will be the one to do it.

What I’ve seen over the last 9 years, it has a little to do with what Cocar told me later that night.

The Rockets, at every level, have to learn how to win. The players have to expect it, and the coaches have to demand it. For most of my tenure here, it’s always just felt like that they hoped to win.

That doesn’t cut it.

Back to the Duchesses. My evaluation after seeing the Dixon volleyball team for the first time this season was that it was hard to point to one thing that the Duchesses do really, really well.

But more importantly, I had a harder time finding something that Duchesses do poorly. Oftentimes, not having a glaring weakness in high school sports is more important than having a superstar player.

The most impressive thing was their reaction to the second set. It was easy to tell that the players were getting frustrated, as a string of mistakes allowed Geneseo to pull ahead 9-1.

I’ve sat in Lancaster Gym enough times to have seen Dixon teams fold at that point.

Instead, they worked through it. They lost the second set, but it wasn’t without flashes of skill they showed in the first-set win. In the third set, they returned to normal and put away Geneseo.

“We weren’t doing the little things, like coming together after every point,” Amy Rotella said. “Once, we got back to doing the little things, we played better.”

Yes, they did. Doing the little things is part of winning. I’ve got a feeling the Duchesses will do quite a bit more winning this season, and in the seasons to come.

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