DIXON – Juliana Rotella provided the fast start, and Tiana Tichler put the finishing touches on Dixon’s 25-17, 25-19 home win Thursday night over visiting Ottawa.
The Duchesses trailed only briefly during the match. Rotella began the opening set with seven straight service points, placing the Pirates in a hole they couldn’t overcome.
“When I go back to the line, I know what I expect and my teammates expect,” Rotella said. “I really focused, and found the holes in the defense. When you miss a serve, it’s really upsetting, so I didn’t want to let the team down. I put that pressure on myself, and it helps.”
Dixon (4-5) has turned its focus to minimizing mistakes, and the result Thursday was evidence of the team starting to gel with Big Northern play on the horizon.
“We start out with our stronger servers, and that helps set the tone,” Dixon coach Bunyan Cocar said. “I felt like we had a desire. We’re kind of finding our groove serving-wise and receiving-wise, and learning how to run the offense. We’re talking more, playing better defense, and learning what it takes to win.”
Ottawa (4-5-2) battled back to cut its deficit to 11-8 in the first after back-to-back aces by Lily Miller, but Tichler shut down any chance of a comeback by making her presence felt at the net. The 5-foot-10 junior tipped spike attempts, and her kill late in the set put the Duchesses up 19-11.
“She’s like a jumping bean. She can get up really quick,” Cocar said of Tichler. “She got her hands to the ball, and I’m trying to get her to read where hitters are coming from. I thought she did an excellent job.”
Molly Harris’ ace put Ottawa within striking distance down 21-15, but a hitting error by the Pirates ended the first set.
“We didn’t come ready to play, and that was evidence with how we started out,” Ottawa coach Jenn Crum said. “The girls have been working hard, but some things just didn’t go our way. Sometimes that’s just the way the ball rolls.”
Dixon jumped out to a 4-0 advantage in the second set, capped by a kill from Tichler. However, the Pirates battled back to score four straight points, capped by a Jenna Nink ace.
The Duchesses trailed 7-5 before tying the score at 8 after an ace by Kayla Callison. Ottawa earned the next point, but Dixon regained the lead thanks to more strong play by Tichler. Her kill gave the Duchesses a 10-9 edge, and a stuff block put Dixon up 13-9.
“I was making sure I knew where the blockers were so it would work more efficiently for the team,” Tichler said. “The student section really helped, and the team on the sidelines really helped.”
Ottawa hung in to trim its deficit to 17-14 after a kill by Erin Rombach, but Dixon traded points to put the match away. Libero Madisyn Rubright’s ace increased the Duchesses’ lead to 22-17, and after a Pirates hitting error, Tichler ended things with a stuff block and a kill.
Tichler finished with nine kills, six blocks and three kills. Rotella recorded eight digs, two kills, an ace and an assist for Dixon.
Emma Carlson stuffed the stat sheet with 15 assists, six digs, an ace, a kill and a block, while seven of Brenna Melvin’s eight kills came in the first set. Rubright added seven digs and an ace for the Duchesses.
Nink registered nine digs, four kills, two assists and a block for Ottawa. Toni Froisland tallied six kills and three blocks, libero Kaylee Brugwald had 12 digs, and Ashly Mauk dished out eight assists for the Pirates.
Dixon def. Ottawa 25-17, 25-19
Star of the match: Tiana Tichler, Dixon, 9 kills, 6 blocks, 3 digs
Key performers: Emma Carlson, Dixon, 15 assists, 6 digs, 1 ace, 1 kill, 1 block; Jenna Nink, Ottawa, 9 digs, 4 kills, 2 assists, 1 block
Up next: Dixon at Morrison, 7 p.m. Monday