OREGON – Down by six early in Set 3 and watching Oregon's Emy Wright collect kills left and right, Rock Falls was on the ropes.
Instead of hitting the canvas, the Rockets hit back, storming back and earning a crucial 16-25, 25-19, 25-21 Big Northern West win Thursday night at Oregon High School.
Oregon, Rock Falls and Mendota all entered the night with two conference losses.
"That was a great win. This was like our conference championship," said Rockets junior middle hitter Bailey Schrader, who had a team-high nine kills. "So, winning against Oregon is like the icing on the cake for us."
Thanks to Wright's heroics, the Hawks (21-7-1, 8-3) built an 8-2 lead to start Set 3. Wright had six kills in the burst, 10 in the set and a match-high 18 overall.
Just when it looked like Oregon, which won 25-23, 25-23 at Rock Falls on Sept. 24, was going to complete the season sweep, back came the Rockets (19-13, 9-2). And, fast.
An 11-2 tear suddenly made it 13-10 Rock Falls. Schrader and Bailey O'Brien (7 kills) had two kills apiece in the blitz, which also included a kill from Dallas Clevenger (7 kills), a block by Syndey Arickx (3 kills) and an ace by Katarina Horwedel (5 digs).
The Rockets did not trail again.
"At the beginning of the year, we would have crumbled in the second game and we would have been done," Rock Falls coach Sheila Mammosser said. "That's the maturity that we've excelled at lately. We've really kept our composure and done a nice job battling back."
"It was rough, but our coach said it's a lesson learned," said Wright, who also had 11 digs. "It gets us more prepared for the postseason. It's tough when we were going for the conference title, but we shouldn't be too concerned. We need to move on."
Rock Falls' lead jockeyed between one and four points the rest of the way. The last instance it was a one-point game was 16-15. Leading 23-21, the Rockets finished things with kills from Schrader and Clevenger.
Oregon dominated the first set, jumping in front 6-0. Rock Falls never truly threatened.
The Rockets turned things around in Set 2, bolting to a 7-2 advantage and never trailing.
Hawks coach Faith Watson took the loss hard.
"I'm not going to blame this one on the girls," she said. "I'm going to say this way my loss. This definitely humbled us a little bit."
Rock Falls' Chelsi Blair dished out 19 assists, while Kaylyn Booker had a team-high eight digs.
Oregon's Hailey Long contributed eight kills and 10 digs, while teammate Sommer Rhea had seven kills. Delaney Mahoney distributed 19 assists.
Star of the match: Bailey Schrader, Rock Falls, team-high 9 kills
Key performers: Emy Wright, Oregon, 18 kills, 11 digs; Bailey O'Brien & Dallas Clevenger, Rock Falls, 7 kills apiece; Hailey Long, Oregon, 8 kills, 10 digs