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Change of colors for Giddings

Rockets rely on back row; Tichler finding her niche

Sierra Williams and the Comets are enjoying their time with new assistant coach Jordan Giddings.
Sierra Williams and the Comets are enjoying their time with new assistant coach Jordan Giddings.

The thought of wearing Newman royal blue still forces an unsure look on Jordan Giddings’ face, but she’s warming up to her newest chapter in life.

Giddings starred as a three-sport athlete in the green and black of Rock Falls, but is currently teaching math and coaching the Comets’ freshman volleyball team. During a meeting with former Newman principal Kathy Howard, Newman varsity volleyball coach Debbi Kelly proposed the idea of adding the 2012 SVM Girls Athlete of the Year to her staff.

“Coach Kelly said they’d love to have me as a coach,” Giddings explained. “I thought about it for 2 weeks, and my fiancé said that I might as well take it. What else was I going to do with my time?”

A 2013 Rock Falls grad, Giddings dominated on the volleyball and basketball court, as well as the softball diamond for the Rockets. As a freshman at Sauk Valley Community College, she finished NJCAA Division III top 10 in kills (522), kills per set (3.87), points (616.2) and points per set (4.6). Giddings was honored as the Arrowhead Conference MVP and a second-team Division III All-American for the Skyhawks.

After 2 years at Sauk, the Rock Falls native went on to star as a basketball player at NAIA St. Francis to finish her college experience.

“I noticed in the beginning of the season that I’m that fun coach that jokes around with the kids a little more,” Giddings said. “It wasn’t that long ago that I was physically in the game, so I bring that perspective, and they definitely enjoy that aspect.”

Giddings is currently taking online classes through Governors State University to earn her teaching license. She also plans on assisting Sauk women’s basketball coach Michele Kreczmer for a second straight year during the winter, then helping the Comets softball team in the spring.

Kelly has established a solid program at Newman, but has been refreshed by younger faces the last two seasons with Giddings replacing Kreczmer as an assistant varsity coach.

“It’s always nice to have a little youth on the staff,” Kelly said. “We lost Michele, but picking up Jordan has been a nice addition to replace that youth. No offense to Jen [Ferris] and I, but we’ve been at this for a long time. I think Jordan has done a fabulous job with the girls on all three levels.”

Calling card: Following Thursday night’s volleyball match at Tabor Gym, Oregon head coach Faith McNamee paused on her way to the bus to ask Rock Falls head coach Sheila Mammosser about her defense.

“How are you guys always so scrappy?” McNamee asked. “Do you do special drills in practice?”

Mammosser thanked McNamee for the compliment, then the two chatted briefly about drills and practice time devoted to defense.

A strong back row is the hallmark for a Rock Falls team under Mammosser, now in her 21st season guiding the Rockets. This season is no different, as there were about a half-dozen plays in their 25-10, 25-15 win over the Hawks where the ball looked to be an Oregon point, but was somehow popped back up and sent back over the net.

“Our back row has been phenomenal,” junior hitter Elise Moeller marveled. “Knowing that we can rely on them to get the balls up to our setters, and they’re able to get us the ball, it gives us a boost of confidence.”

Senior middle Kenzie Olson has seen it firsthand for 2+ years now, having been a varsity starter as a sophomore in 2016. It never ceases to amaze her what her back-row teammates are capable of.

“Our motto is ‘Don’t let the ball hit the floor,’ and that’s so true for them. They’re not going to let any ball hit the floor, ever, if they can help it,” Olson said. “It’s so relieving knowing they’re back there, and it makes us want to get that kill – you know, do it for them because they’re working so hard back there, and we need to do our job too.”

While Olson is the latest Rock Falls middle to help lead the charge with blocks and touches at the net, Madison Arickx is this year’s libero – the next in a long line of players Mammosser relies on more than most coaches to be floor generals and set the tone for her team.

But like the hitters want to do their job at the net to support the defense, Arickx says the back-row players are focused on making sure they provide all the help they can for the offense.

“I think it really helps out the front row, because we try to let them know that they have support,” Arickx said. “We’re going to be behind them the whole time, and we’re going to do everything we can to make sure they can get a kill.”

Coming into her own: The Dixon volleyball team picked up nonconference victories on Tuesday and Thursday this week, dispatching both Rock Island and Ottawa in two sets.

A big reason for the Duchesses’ success was Tiana Tichler stepping up her presence at the net. The 5-foot-10 junior recorded a combined 13 blocks and 12 kills against the Rocks and Pirates.

“I’ve learned to talk and know where everyone is at,” Tichler said. “If you know both of those things, you’ll be able to get a good kill. I’m glad that I’m being seen by the setters and trusted to put the ball away.”

Dixon coach Bunyan Cocar noted that the high-flying junior is starting to build the type of confidence that she can kill anything, similar to fellow junior outside hitter Brenna Melvin. Tichler has a high contact point, and showed versatility against Ottawa with three digs as a middle back.

“The ceiling for her is so high. She’s still learning how good she can be,” Cocar said. “She can turn and hit the other way, or hit straight on. She’s been a pleasant surprise. She made a lot of strides over the summer.”

Carrying the flags: The heat on Tuesday took its toll on some people at the Dixon-Oregon soccer game, including the officials.

With one official unable to continue after the first half, the remaining referee asked Dixon coach Josh Brigl and Oregon coach Seger Larson if anyone on the Hawks or Dukes bench could lend a hand. As it happened, one person from each could. Oregon fresh/soph player Gavin Bradshaw and Dixon alum Jacob Fane are both certified officials, and both served as linesmen for the second half.

“It wasn’t anything new for me,” said Fane, a junior at NIU. “I’ve worked a lot of games, youth games at the YMCA.”

Fane has been working youth games for 6 years. He likes soccer, and the YMCA asked him if he wanted to get certified. This was his first high school game, as mostly he is volunteering with the Dukes whenever he’s in town.

Called into action: Sergio Garcia had a goal to be on the varsity stage for the Sterling boys soccer team soon, but not quite so soon. 

Garcia, Sterling’s freshman goalkeeper, moved into the varsity starting role after Brandon Ducoing transferred to Yorkville before the start of the season. Growing pains were expected, as Sterling has yet to win in its first five matches – but came away with a 2-2 tie Thursday against LaSalle-Peru at the Roscoe Eades soccer pitch. 

“I just kept a positive mindset,” Garcia said. “I said that I was good enough to be here, and I always try my best.”

Defense on corner kicks Thursday got the best of the Golden Warriors, as the Cavs scored both of their goals in that fashion. Sterling’s goals both came off the foot of Adrian Herrera, and they were the Golden Warriors’ first scores of the season. 

Herrera hopes his team won’t dig more holes for their young keeper.

“We had another goalie, and [Garcia] was ready to step right up to it,” Herrera said. “No matter what grade he is, he’s ready to play.”

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