OTTAWA – If a team was to script exactly the way it wanted the opening set of a volleyball match to go, all it had to do is watch the video of how Rochelle began its Interstate 8 Conference match against Ottawa in Kingman Gym on Tuesday.
That would provide it a textbook example.
Rochelle jumped on Ottawa at the very start and didn’t let up until halfway through the second set, riding that near perfection to a 25-4, 25-21 victory over the Pirates.
A four-point service run by Macy Ramos, a five-point burst by Cassie Garcia and a 10-point rally by Payton Hale drove the Hubs to a 23-3 lead in the first set, while Ramos served up another four and Hale six to give the visitors a 15-4 advantage in the second before Ottawa pulled itself together enough to make that game competitive.
It wasn’t that everything that Ottawa (8-14-1, 3-4) was doing was wrong, although its lack of solid serve receive also kept it from getting in system throughout. It was more that Rochelle (11-8) was clicking in every phase of the game all at once that allowed it to come away with a dominant win.
“Things just snowballed on us, and there was nothing we could do,” said Ottawa coach Jenn Crum. “We switched lineups, we switched rotations, we changed game plans as fast as we could, but nothing seemed to work. Serve receive was really an issue in that first set, and when you can’t get good touches on the ball it’s hard to set up a good offense, any offense. I don’t think we gave them anything to beat. We kind of did it for them a little bit tonight. That chipped away at our confidence a bit.
“The plan was to go into the second set with the first one erased from our minds, pretend it didn’t happen and start fresh, and we did a better job of that, but sometimes it’s just too little, too late. I’m hoping this is a glitch, that we just have this one hiccup, learn from it and move forward.”
It was a little foreshadowing when Ramos’s first serve was an ace, one of seven Rochelle had the opening set. When Ottawa was able to get a pass to set up a kill attempt, the Hubs blocking was right there, evidenced by Hale’s three block-kills. And it seemed every time it got past that block, the defense would bring it back up, proven by Taelynn Rodeghero’s five kills.
After a slam by Olivia Evola made it 4-1, the three points the home team put up the remainder of the set came on Rochelle service errors.
The second set seemed on the verge of going the same way, with three kills from Ali Ohlinger and two blocks and a kill by Hale leading to that 15-4 advantage for the Hubs, who entered the night in a four-way tie with Ottawa, La Salle-Peru and Sycamore for third place in the I-8 at 3-3 behind leader Kaneland and second-place Morris.
But then Ottawa showed life. A pair of kills and a block by Ayla Dorsey helped create two-point runs for herself and Chey Joachim and a four-point rally by Evola, cutting that deficit to 17-15 and forcing a Hubs timeout. However, the Pirates got no closer than three the rest of the way.
“In that first set, it seemed we did anything and everything right,” Rochelle coach Molly Sly said. “We served well, we serve in, and we didn’t make any mistakes that gave them points. We made them earn every point they got. In the second set, we kind of lost the momentum subbing people and moving them in and out, but we pulled it out. It was great. They took control from the first serve and it was fantastic.
“Ottawa played very well at the freshman and sophomore levels, and I think that kind of lit the fire for the varsity tonight. It made them want to come out and take care of business.”