ROCK FALLS – The thing about turning points is that it's almost impossible to see them coming.
Take Tuesday's volleyball match between Rock Falls and Byron for example.
The Rockets cruised through the first set, winning 25-9 on Senior Night at Tabor Gym. A few minutes into in the second set, the Rockets held a six-point lead that forced a Tiger timeout.
After that, the Tigers, who had held serve for only one point at a time through the first set and a half, rallied. Byron pulled within a point before Rock Falls coach Sheila Mammosser called timeout.
The rest of the set consisted of back-and-forth rallies until the final two points – both kills by Rock Falls sophomore Bailey O'Brien – secured the 26-24 victory.
"We just didn't come out with the same intensity in the second set," O'Brien said. "It's something that we have to learn that we can't do."
"I don't know why they have to do that," Mammosser said. "I think it's just to stress me out a little bit. I am glad we put them away, because we didn't want to go to a third set."
Coincidentally, it was a match against Byron earlier this season that Mammosser points to as the turning point for her Rockets (18-13, 8-2 Big Northern West).
Rock Falls played at Byron on Sept. 18, earning a 25-15, 22-25, 25-14 victory.
"That match at Byron, we played about as well as we had all season," Mammosser said. "We followed that with a tournament in Chicago that weekend. I think that's where some of the team building started to happen."
The Rockets, who were 4-6 going into the first match, have gone 14-7 since and are tied for first with Oregon and Mendota in the Big Northern West.
Rock Falls plays at Oregon on Thursday and finishes off regular-season play next Thursday at Stillman Valley.
The win Tuesday over Byron keeps them on pace with the Hawks and Trojans.
"I was actually really worried about this match," O'Brien said. "It was so important for us to win to keep in first, and we know that Oregon is next.
"We've put in a lot of hard work and had a lot of hard practices. Coach really pushes us, and it's starting to pay off."
O'Brien had eight kills, five digs, four service points and three aces. Two of those kills came in the third set.
"She's been our most reliable hitter this season," Mammosser said. "But, I think Dallas Clevenger played phenomenally tonight. She's really playing with a lot confidence. The whole group has been a lot more confident."
Clevenger had 10 kills. Chelsi Blair had 22 assists and five digs, while Kaylyn Booker had 12 digs.
Drew Bernhard had eight of her nine kills in the second set for Byron. As a team, the Tigers had two kills in the first set.