Hudson -- The Stow-Munroe Falls and Hudson volleyball teams have produced plenty of great matches over the years.
The contest between the two rivals Sept. 8 at Ray "Buck" Hyser Gymnasium could be called an instant classic.
The Lady Explorers rallied from a set down twice and had match point on the Bulldogs, only to see the Lady Bulldogs come back to pull out a 26-24, 21-25, 25-16, 23-25, 16-14 win.
Prior to the Hudson match, Stow held off a late rally by Nordonia to win 25-14, 23-25, 25-10, 21-25, 15-13 Sept. 1 at home. The Bulldogs also defeated Twinsburg 29-31, 25-18, 25-15, 24-26, 15-3 on the road Sept. 6
Stow improved to 6-1 overall and 4-1 in the Suburban League National Conference.
It was yet another five-set affair for the Lady Bulldogs, who have played five sets in all of their conference matches this season.
"That was a well-played game on both sides," Stow head coach Miguel Ramirez said. "We still have to learn how to finish teams, but we were able to pull it out in the end."
Despite the loss, Lady Explorers' first-year head coach Brad Disandis was happy with his team's effort. Disandis said he expected a thriller in his first match as head coach against Stow.
"It expected it," Disandis said. "I have a lot of respect for Miguel as he's done a great job with the program. I respect this game because it has a lot of history to it."
Set one gave an idea of what was to come as momentum swayed back and forth.
Lady Bulldog hitters Lizzy Stefanov and Julia DiPaola attacked the Hudson net, but Lady Explorer hitters Alena Madar and Danielle Turner answered in kind.
Stow looked to have the set in hand with a 24-21 lead only to see Hudson rally to tie it at 24.
However, a Lady Bulldog kill was followed by a good serve by Stefanov to end the first set.
Stefanov led Stow with 13 kills, while DiPaola had 20 digs.
Set two was another back-and-forth affair as the set was tied 11 times.
However, Hudson was able to get some kills down late in the set and Turner put a kill down on set point, tying the match at 1-1.
Set three started out as another tight one, but the Lady Bulldogs were able to break it open, thanks to eight straight service points from sophomore Claire O'Verko.
After getting the serve with Stow leading 17-16, O'Verko had the Lady Explorers running all over the court, allowing six different Lady Bulldogs to get kills in the third set.
Stefanov hit a stuff block on set point to make it 2-1 Stow.
Early on, it looked like Hudson was going to run away with the fourth set. Good serving from libero Kendall Mackay helped the Lady Explorers to a 19-11 lead.
However, Stow chipped away at the lead until a block from DiPaola cut the deficit to 24-23.
Turner then came through again for Hudson as the junior put down a kill, sending the match to a fifth set.
There was plenty of drama in the fifth set as well.
The Lady Explorers took an early 5-2 lead, only to have Stow rally to take the lead at 9-6. Hudson then rallied to lead 13-11, before a DiPaola kill tied it at 13.
The Lady Explorers then got match point at 14-13 off a kill by Madar, but Hudson did not return the ball. Stefanov followed with a kill to make it 15-14 Stow.
On match point, Madar put her kill attempt out of bounds, giving the Lady Bulldogs the set at 16-14 and the match.
"We've got to be able to stop that [playing to five sets], because eventually, good team are going to get us," Ramirez said. "That said, I'm confident when we go to five that we can win it."
Against Nordonia, Stow seemed to be in control of the match early, as hitters DiPaola and Stefanov led the charge. After Nordonia trimmed the lead to 15-13 in the first set, DiPaola scored eight straight service points to put the set out of reach.
Stefanov ended the first set with a kill off a Nordonia block. She had five of her 14 kills in the first set and led the team with six solo blocks.
However, Nordonia came out firing in the second set, thanks to its primary weapon: Sophomore outside hitter Megan Alders. Alders put down six kills in the second set alone, helping the Knights to maintain the lead after the set was tied 6-6.
A Stow hitting error gave Nordonia the second set.
In set three, however, Nordonia's passing felt apart. Stow took advantage, as middle hitter Maria Cistone registered several blocks to stop any Knights momentum.
Stow took an early 9-4 lead in the third set and never looked back. Cistone ended the set with a well-placed tip kill.
Ramirez lamented the fact that his team still is learning how to close out opponents, as he noted his team also gave up set four in the Wadsworth match.
Set five was a microcosm of the match: Stow took the early lead, but Nordonia fought hard to erase it.
Stow got to match point at 14-11, but the Knights fended off two match points. Finally, a four hits call on the Knights gave Stow the contest.
DiPaola led the Bulldogs with 20 kills, while libero Alyssa Tallarico had 25 digs. Setters Jacy Guider and Lauren Fair shared the load evening in Stow's split 5-1 system, as Guider had 19 assists and Fair had 20.
In the win over Twinsburg, Stefanov had a big match with 15 kills and 20 digs, while Cistone added nine blocks. Fair finished with 24 assists.
Stow was set to participate in the Lancer Invitational at Gilmour Academy Sept. 10, but results were not available at press time.
Stow travel to St. Vincent-St. Mary Sept. 12, Cuyahoga Falls Sept. 13 and host Brecksville-Broadview Heights Sept. 15.