DIXON – The Rock Falls volleyball team had the perfect answer when Dixon made a run early in the first set of their Big Northern match Monday night at Lancaster Gym.
Once the Rockets found their rhythm, it turned into a tough night for the Duchesses. Rock Falls turned a 2-point lead early into a 25-11, 25-13 victory to stay perfect on the season.
Two kills from Mallory Pinske around an Elise Moeller kill gave the Rockets (27-0, 8-0 BNC) a 5-1 lead right out of the gate, and a tip-kill by Moeller strteched it to 8-2.
But Emma Carlson got going for Dixon (13-17, 4-3), spiking consecutive kills before answering another Moeller kill a few points later to make it 9-7.
“We just needed to pick ourselves up, because we know we could do better,” Maya Sands said. “We’ve come so far in this season that we know how we can play, so we just had to come back and regroup and tell ourselves that we needed to push.”
Moeller had a kill and an ace for a 4-point lead, then after another Carlson kill, the Duchesses had back-to-back hitting errors before Sands ripped a pair of kills around another Dixon error for a 16-8 lead.
Taylor Spellman’s kill and a Rocket hit out of bounds brought the Duchesses within 18-11, but a kill by Mallory Pinske, an ace by Sands and a block by Kennedy Shaw sparked a 7-0 closing run that was capped by three straight Moeller kills.
“We just got done with a tournament here, and we literally played them 2 days ago,” Moeller said. “We knew coming out tonight it would be a different atmosphere and a different team, and we had to play our game. We couldn’t have any expectations from the weekend, because everything was going to be different. We had to play our game and stick to what we do and push through the rough times.”
A Pinske block started the second set, and Rock Falls opened with a 10-2 run that featured two more Moeller kills, a Pinske spike, an ace from Audra Goff, and kills by Shaw and Karli Fischbach.
After a timeout, Dixon got kills from Mallory Coley and Carlson to get within 10-4, but the Rockets answered with a Shaw kill to start a 7-2 surge. Moeller had a kill and an ace, Makiah Alvarado had two kills and a block, and Sands finished the run with a kill for an 18-6 lead.
“I feel like we set the tone that first couple of points,” Moeller said. “Audra does a nice job jump-serving, so we set the tone there, and that just starts our offense and we get going from that.”
Tiana Tichler had a pair of blocks as Dixon tried to fight back, the second stuff making it 20-10 Rockets. After Elena Castillo-Wetzell served an ace to get the Duchesses within 21-12, a pair of No. 8s traded points – Rock Falls’ Vanessa Romo served an ace, then Dixon’s Brenna Melvin spiked a kill – before a lift violation and a Moeller kill finished off the Rock Falls victory.
The biggest difference in the match was how much the Rockets play in system, and how much the Duchesses were out of system.
“Our defense was phenomenal, so I think that helps us get in system,” Moeller said, “and when we get in system, we can run a lot of plays, do a lot of things, mix up the sets so they don’t always key on one person. We have multiple people to set, lots of weapons to go to.”
“We were a little bit timid tonight; we know how good they are, and we didn’t want to make mistakes,” Dixon coach Bunyan Cocar said. “So we didn’t serve too tough and they were in system a lot, and they served at us tough because they know they can overcome any out-of-system stuff. They’re setters and very good, and they’re hitters are very good. I thought we played with them for a while, but we were a little bit out of system most of the night.”
Moeller finished with 11 kills, eight digs and two aces, while Maya Sands added seven kills, 10 digs and 10 points. Pinske finished with five kills and a block, and Shaw had three kills and four assists. Goff had 19 assists, 10 digs and seven points, and Maddie Sands led the defense with 16 digs.
Carlson paced Dixon with six kills and added five digs, Kaitlynn Pfeiffer had six assists and five digs, Madeline Gusse dished five assists, and Kayla Callison added six digs and four points.
“Overall it was fine, and I appreciate the effort on our side,” Cocar said. “We played better defense than we have in the past, but give Rock Falls all the credit; come on, they’re so good, you can’t take anything away from them. I don’t think there’s anything we could’ve done a whole lot different that would’ve made a big difference. I thought we could’ve taken some bigger swings and challenged their block a little more, but their defense is so rock-solid that it’s hard to penetrate.
“But I just told the girls, ‘We just need to learn from this, learn how good some teams can be, and just move and and say what can I do to emulate that?’”
Rock Falls def. Dixon 25-11, 25-13
Star of the game: Elise Moeller, RF, 11 kills, 8 digs, 2 aces
Key performers: Maya Sands, RF, 7 kills, 10 digs, 10 points; Audra Goff, RF, 19 assists, 10 digs, 7 points; Emma Carlson, Dixon, 6 kills, 5 digs
Up next: North Boone at Dixon & Geneseo at Rock Falls, both 6 p.m. today