Moline coach Mike Ducey likes the direction his volleyball team is headed. But it’s also fair to say he’s not quite pleased with where they are just yet.

The Maroons (17-5, 6-1 in the Western Big Six) survived a late Rock Island rally in the first set, getting the final two points to escape 25-23, then cruised in the second game 25-12 Thursday at Rock Island Fieldhouse. The win was the 101st of Ducey’s career and keeps alive the chance for Moline to tie Quincy for the conference title.

“Our team really needs to understand how to play dual matches because that’s how you advance in the state tournament,” said Ducey, noting he wasn’t pleased with how the Maroons closed out Alleman on Tuesday in another Moline win. “That needs to be a real focus for us because we are not stringing two together right now. We are doing one and then one that’s not so clean.”

Moline closed the first set with kills by Megan Pittington and Bella Mitchell after Rock Island had rallied from 20-11 and 22-16 deficits to tie it at 23.

The goal was to carry the momentum over to the second game, said senior captain Molly Tauke, who had 11 kills, nine digs and an ace to lead the Maroons on Thursday.

“It’s exciting for us,” she said of the season. “But our coach, Coach Ducey, he still pushes us every day at practice because he still wants more out of us. And the big goal, we really want to beat Quincy since we lost to them (earlier this year). That’s our goal, to work super hard every day in the gym to get to our goal. Hopefully, it’s a repeat of last year when we hopefully beat them again this year. We can’t win it all, but we can still tie for first like last year.”

That match will be played at Moline, Oct. 21.

Ducey felt the Maroons became spectators in the first set after jumping to a 4-0 lead. But the Rocks’ rise did not surprise Tauke.

“We come into this gym expecting them to compete,” she said. “And obviously they competed very well against us in the first game. Then we just came back with way more momentum than them in the second game and beat them.”

Moline also got 24 assists from Mitchell, eight kills from Kiya Ritchie and four each from Alannah Crompton and Lacey McMillion in a solid team performance.

Rock Island (4-14, 2-4), was led by Delaney Kelley’s two kills and four digs and Carlee Camline’s seven assists and one ace.

“We gave them a little too much momentum to start that first game,” said Rock Island coach Kelly Young. “But we were able to come back and get in that game. Really happy with how we were playing.

 “They are a really smart team. That’s one thing we talk about is court awareness and volleyball IQ, and that’s one of Moline’s strong parts of their game. They see the court and take advantage of it.”

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