DIXON – The Duchesses opened their 2019 volleyball season at Lancaster Gym by taking a close first set, watching Rochelle come from behind to win a close second set, then claiming the close third set for a 25-22, 22-25, 25-23 win.
“We just got talking, and then we had to get it together and get our passes up to setter and we just had to dominate,” Dixon senior middle Tiana Tichler said.
The teams played through 10 different ties in the third set, the last at 12-12, before Dixon started to pull away slightly. After trailing 12-11 on an Allison Seebach ace, Dixon scored the next five points, getting kills from Brenna Melvin, Emma Carlson and Taylor Spellman.
The Duchesses (1-0) led by as many as five in the set before Rochelle started to chip away. Emma Smith got a kill and Ellie Kinn followed with an ace, her fifth of the night, to cut the deficit to 19-17.
But every time the Hubs got within striking distance in the third set, the Duchesses answered. Carlson followed Kinn’s ace with a kill. Rochelle cut the lead to 20-19 when Clare Green slammed down an overpass, but she followed that with a service error.
Four times late in the set the Hubs were within a point. All four times, Dixon took the next point. After a kill by Green made it 23-22, Melvin answered with a thunderous kill to get Dixon within a point of the win. Rochelle got back within a point on a service error, but then committed its own service error to end the match.
“I thought we picked up the intensity a little bit in the third game, served a little tougher, and we just got a few good swings,” Dixon coach Bunyan Cocar said.
Dixon seemed to be gradually taking control early in the first set after Abbie Guthrie tipped a pair of kills, Tichler added a kill of her own, and Melvin came through with a block to make it 15-8.
The Duchesses were within two points of closing out the set after a Kayla Callison ace made it 23-16, but Rochelle stormed back. A handful of Dixon miscues and a pair of kills by Katie Van Hise hitting down the line cut the Hubs’ deficit to 24-22.
“She’s put in a lot of work in the summer and in the offseason,” Rochelle coach Molly Sly said of Van Hise. “I think we can only see her get better and better throughout the season, so we’re excited.”
Dixon eventually pulled out the set when Melvin slammed home one of her seven kills.
“It was really a team effort,” Carlson said. “We had to work together. We were kind of falling apart. There was miscommunication, but we just came together as a team and pulled through.”
Rochelle (1-1) took the second set despite Dixon storming out to an early lead. Tichler had a pair of kills early in the set, and Melvin followed with two of her own as well as an ace.
After the Hubs tied the score at 7-7, Carlson came through with a pair of kills and Guthrie added another.
Dixon led 17-13 in the set before Rochelle scored the next seven points, three of them on aces by Kinn.
Rochelle led the rest of the way, with a pair of kills by Tichler keeping it close, but Smith was able to block a Carlson hit to end the set.
“Our passing was a lot better,” Sly said. “We were communicating. We were giving the sets to the hot hitters. I don’t think Dixon put up as good a block in that second game, therefore our hitters were able to do a little more damage that what they did in that first set.”
“We felt like out passing fell apart a little bit in the second set, we weren’t able to run our middles,” Cocar said. “They’re a good team and very scrappy, and we didn’t execute very consistently. I told the girls, we played good in spurts, but not for the long stretch, so I said, ‘Get back to what you were doing: passing, serving tough, keeping them out of system.’ When they’re in system, they were fantastic. Hitting on the outside, hitting line. We have to do a better job of blocking line.”
Carlson had 10 kills and 12 digs playing six rotations for the Duchesses. Melvin added seven kills. Tichler finished with foive kills and five blocks, and junior setter Kaitlynn Pfeiffer had 14 assists.
Despite the win to open the season, the Duchesses see areas where there is room to improve.
“We can talk,” Tichler said. “If we talk, we can get some better plays going and we could do so much better.”
Dixon def. Rochelle 25-22, 22-25, 25-23
Star of the game: Emma Carlson, Dixon, 10 kills, 12 digs
Key performers: Brenna Melvin, Dixon, 7 kills; Sylvia Hasz, Rochelle, 10 kills; Ellie Kinn, Rochelle, 20 assists, 5 aces; Kaitlynn Pfeiffer, Dixon, 14 assists; Tiana Tichler, Dixon, 5 kills, 5 blocks
Up next: Newman at Dixon, 6 p.m. Tuesday