STERLING – Dixon pulled out a 25-21, 25-22 win over Bureau Valley in the third-place match of the Gold Bracket of the Sterling Invitational on Saturday at Challand Middle School, while in the Silver Bracket, Fulton took first place with a 25-20, 25-18 win over Newman.
Metamora won the Gold Bracket with a straight-sets win over Bloomington Central Catholic, extending its winning streak to 38 in the process.
In their third-place win over the Storm, the Duchesses saw a slew of hitting errors early in the first set to fall behind 4-0. Bureau Valley led 7-2 after a block from Kate Salisbury, but Dixon came racing back. Izzi McCommons served a pair of aces in a three-point span to help Dixon take a 10-8 lead. Salisbury answered with a tip and a kill to keep things close, but kills by Mallory Coley and Joey Brumbly put Dixon back in front, and Ella Govig ended with first set with a block and a kill.
In the second set, it was Dixon (9-8) racing out to the early lead as Coley and Govig came up with kills and Olivia Cox slammed down a Bureau Valley overpass to make it 17-13 Duchesses. Aces from Holli Miller and Sam Tourtillott followed, with Bureau Valley’s Emma Stabler adding an ace at the other end, before Dixon ended it with a kill from Brumbly.
“It’s all about matchups: our strong hitter against their weaker blocker, their strong hitter against our blockers,” Dixon coach Bunyan Cocar said. “If we keep them out of system or they keep us out of system, you always want to watch for matchups. Volleyball always ebbs and flows. You have to sustain, and I thought we did that. That’s all a part of learning to win.”
The Duchesses dropped just one set in pool play, splitting against Pecatonica 21-10, 18-21. Dixon then beat Erie-Prophetstown 21-15, 21-9.
“You have to play your draw, and our draw was favorable,” Cocar said. “We split, but we won by a greater margin, which I was happy about. We knew we had a chance against every team here. There are a lot of great teams, but we’re pretty scrappy, and we showed that against Metamora.”
The Duchesses fell in the semifinal to Metamora 25-18, 25-12.
Bureau Valley won its pool by sweeping Rochelle 21-17, 23-21 and splitting with Sterling, losing 21-19 and winning 21-14.
Sterling swept Rochelle 21-18, 21-12.
Bureau Valley (9-13) fell to Bloomington Catholic Central in the semifinal.
“I told my girls going into this our goal was to be Silver or Gold [bracket],” Bureau Valley coach Caitlyn Demay said. “We played great volleyball today, and I think we flipped a switch. We flipped a switch on and our girls played the best volleyball they’ve played all season.”
In the Silver Bracket semifinals, Newman (18-3-1) beat Sterling in straight sets, while Fulton beat Pecatonica.
In the title game, the first set was back-and-forth, with Fulton getting early kills from Reese Dykstra and Annaka Hackett before Kennedy Rowzee answered with a kill for the Comets. A Dykstra ace and a Newman hit sailing wide put Fulton up 10-5, but Rowzee and Ally Clevenger responded with kills and Paige Grennan served an ace.
Ava Bowen later had back-to-back kills to put Fulton in front 19-12 and, despite another ace from Grennan, the Steamers were in control the rest of the set.
That momentum carried over to the second set, where Fulton claimed the first six points. An ace from Bowen followed by a kill from Dykstra put Fulton up 14-4, and the Steamers maintained that lead the rest of the way, finishing it off with a kill from Mikayla Gazo.
“Fulton did a good job keeping the ball in play, and we weren’t as crisp getting our balls set up,” Newman coach Debbi Kelly said. “It’s a game we’ll take and learn from. I think a little tiredness came into play. Once we got down, it was hard to work our way back.”
Newman got 33 kills, 25 digs, four blocks and three aces for the day from Clevenger. Rowzee added 23 kills. Jessalin Johns had 22 kills, 31 digs and five blocks. Paige Grennan had 41 digs, Katie Grennan had 39 assists, and Shae McNeill had 22 digs and 35 assists.
Fulton split in pool play, falling 21-8, 21-12 to Metamora and beating the Sterling JV 21-7, 21-16.
“We’ve had a very up-and-down season,” Fulton coach Stacy Germann said. “We’re young, and we were hoping to start to mature, and I think today they did that. We practiced different types of hitting – line, cross, cut, things like that – and I think the girls used a variety of hitting and started to grow up today.”
Newman went through pool play with three set-wins, but lost the pool to Bloomington Catholic Central on a tiebreaker. The Comets beat AFC 21-5, 21-4 and split with Bloomington Catholic Central, winning one set 21-18 but dropping the second 21-15.
Bloomington Catholic Central beat the Raiders 21-4, 21-17.
Sterling took fourth in the Silver Bracket, falling in three sets to Pecatonica in the third-set match.
“A little more consistency today, especially in serve-receive,” Sterling coach Dale Dykeman said. “We passed the first ball pretty well most of the day. And just competing. We were able to manage the level. Sometimes we’ve been very high, sometimes very low, and today we managed the consistency, not too high, not too low, and when we had adversity, we played well.”
In pool play, Erie-Prophetstown split with Pecatonica, winning 21-14 and falling 22-20. That put the Panthers in the Bronze bracket, where they beat Sterling’s JV in the semifinal. In the bracket final, the Panthers beat Rochelle 20-25, 25-22, 15-13.
Erie-Prophetstown got 28 kills from Kennedy Buck for the day, as well as 24 digs. Isabelle VanOosten had eight aces, and Jaiden Oleson had 61 assists and 15 digs. Emma Davis had 32 digs, and Aylah Jones had 14 kills and 15 digs.