by Frank Aceto
Associate Sports Editor
Hudson -- They went toe to toe the last time they faced each other earlier in the season.
Not surprisingly, they went toe to toe again Oct. 4.
Both contests proved to be instant classics between the two longtime rivals.
Unfortunately for the Lady Explorers, the Lady Bulldogs have bragging rights in 2016.
The host Stow-Munroe Falls volleyball team completed a sweep against Hudson after posting a 25-21, 20-25, 25-22, 22-25, 15-6 victory. The Suburban League National Conference showdown took place at James G. Tyree Gymnasium in Stow.
The Lady Explorers bounced back with a hard-fought 16-25, 25-21, 19-25, 25-19, 15-11 win over National Conference rival Twinsburg Oct. 5 on the road.
In a match where the momentum seemed to turn 180 degrees several times, the Lady Bulldogs (13-6, 8-4) took care of business when it mattered most Oct. 4.
Stow scored five consecutive points to take an 8-3 lead in the fifth set and then scored the final five points to end the match.
Four of those last five points took place on the serve of Lady Bulldogs' junior outside hitter/defensive specialist Kendall Feldman.
"We played not to lose instead of playing to win," Lady Explorers' first-year head coach Brad Disandis said. "We made some not smart volleyball plays. I think we ran out of gas."
Prior to the fifth set, it was nip and tuck the entire way.
"Hudson is a team that we really don't want to see," Stow head coach Miguel Ramirez said. "They play solid defense and are well-coached. They post a lot of matchup problems."
The match was tied at 21 in the first set before the Lady Bulldogs closed the deal with four straight points.
The last three points came on the serve of Stow sophomore setter Lauren Fair.
In the second set, the Lady Bulldogs got some scary news when one of their top front-row players went down with an injury.
Junior outside hitter Julia DiPaola suffered an ankle injury with her team trailing 6-5.
After a short delay, the Lady Explorers seemed rejuvenated.
Hudson (7-9, 5-7) went on a 10-0 run to take a commanding 17-6 lead. Junior outside hitter Dani Turner had the last nine service points during the spurt for the Lady Explorers.
But Stow roared back and was down just two (22-20) after a kill by sophomore outside hitter Lizzy Stefanov.
However, Hudson scored the next three points as the Lady Bulldogs made some untimely errors down the stretch.
The third set was close the entire way.
Stow senior outside hitter Lauren Turschak delivered in the clutch when she smashed home a kill on set point.
The Lady Bulldogs trailed most of the fourth set, but they cut their deficit to one (23-22) after a Stefanov kill.
"You just hopes she hits the ball out," Brad Disandis said of Stefanov.
But the Lady Explorers got a kill and a block by senior middle hitter Alena Madar to send the match to a decisive fifth set.
"I'm not big on moral victories," Brad Disandis said. "You have to give a lot of credit to Stow. They regrouped [after the injury] and found a way."
Stefanov led Stow with 18 kills and senior middle hitter Marie Cistone, who got some major minutes after DiPaola suffered her injury, had nine blocks for the Lady Bulldogs.
Also contributing for Stow were defensive specialist Alyssa Tallarico (20 digs), Fair (23 assists), junior outside hitter Jacy Guider (20 assists), Feldman (two aces) and sophomore defensive specialist Claire O'Verko (two aces).
The Lady Explorers were led by Madar. She finished with 21 kills, 15 service points, eight digs and three blocks.
"That's a monster game," Brad Disandis said of Madar. "You don't see that kind of production from a middle hitter. You normally see that from an outside hitter."
Turner finished with 23 service points, 15 kills and 11 digs and sophomore hitter Regina Alvarez had 12 kills and four blocks.
Junior defensive specialist Maddie Gaeta contributed 22 digs and 14 service points, including two aces. Junior defensive specialist Nina Disandis had 21 service points, including two aces, and 21 digs for Hudson.
Also contributing for the Lady Explorers were junior setter Lorenza Chiarappa (59 assists and 18 digs), junior outside hitter Madison Topczewski (11 kills) and sophomore libero Kendall Mackay (47 digs and 10 service points, including one ace).
Against Twinsburg, Turner had a huge match with 22 kills, 19 service points, seven digs and four blocks. Madar finished with 22 service points, 14 kills and five blocks and Alvarez added 11 kills and seven blocks.
Also contributing for Hudson were Chiarappa (49 assists and nine digs), Mackay (27 digs), Gaeta (28 of 29 service receive passes, 15 service points and 12 digs), Nina Disandis (25 service points, including five aces, and 24 digs) and freshman defensive specialist Amelia Hoffmeier (17 of 18 service receive passes and 12 digs).
Although his team had a losing record as of press time, Brad Disandis likes what he sees from his squad in recent weeks.
"We're moving in the right direction," he said. "We are very skilled in the back court. They do a great job even when we don't slow the ball down. I feel we have improved our defensive positioning."
Hudson is scheduled to host National Conference rivals Wadsworth Oct. 11 and Brecksville-Broadview Heights in its regular-season finale Oct. 13 at Ray "Buck" Hyser Gymnasium. Play is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. both days.