DIXON — The shots were coming hard and fast on Thursday, and there wasn’t much the Rochelle varsity volleyball team could do to slow down the top-seeded Sterling Golden Warriors in the IHSA Class 3A Regional Championship at Dixon High School.
The Lady Hubs scored three consecutive points to open the first game before Sterling took full control of the match, winning 25-14, 25-10 over Rochelle to claim the regional title and end Rochelle’s season. The fifth-seeded Lady Hubs pieced together an overall record of 16-21-1 this fall after upsetting fourth-seeded Marengo in the semifinal round on Tuesday.
“I think the girls need to remember how we started the match,” head coach Molly Sly said. “I think they also need to remember the season by how we picked off a higher seed on Tuesday to get to this match which was awesome.”
Sterling turned the first game around quickly with an 8-1 run to drive ahead of Rochelle 8-4. Senior Emma Mehrings helped keep the Lady Hubs close with a kill to make it 17-11 in favor of the Golden Warriors before a brief 3-1 run by Sterling forced Rochelle into a timeout trailing 20-12. Mehrings finished with a team-high five kills in the match.
“We have to be ready every single point and we can’t be on our heels,” Sly said. “We have to keep our feet moving every single play and keep thinking about getting the ball over to their side and hope they’re the first ones to make a mistake.”
Sterling opened the second game with an 8-1 run before increasing their lead to 14-4 after a net violation against the Lady Hubs. With a myriad of offensive options to use, the Golden Warriors attacked the Rochelle defense from all angles of the court with powerful swings the Lady Hubs haven’t seen from many opponents this year.
“I think they put more pressure on our blockers to get touches on the ball to take some speed off so our back row could react,” Sly said. “I think our blockers did a great job of doing that. I think the girls played well overall and I don’t think there’s much for them to hold their heads about.”
Senior Sarah Craven totaled a team-high 10 digs to anchor the Lady Hubs on defense while seniors Grace Orlikowski and Emily Engelkes each recorded six digs. Sophomore Clare Green had 11 assists for the Lady Hubs.