After experiencing two of its greatest seasons in school history, the Hudson girls volleyball team has been in a bit of a slide the last three years.
Nothing is guaranteed, of course, but the Lady Explorers’ recent slump should come to an end sooner than later.
As a matter of fact, it looks like they have the potential to rise even higher in the years to come.
Such possible success will be a welcome sight for the Lady Explorers, who finished 8-14 and 2-12 in the Suburban League National Conference last fall.
Hudson’s 2017 season ended with a five-set loss to Akron Archbishop Hoban in a Division I sectional title game. It was the Lady Explorers’ third straight losing season.
Prior to their difficult stretch, Hudson had reached the state semifinals in 2013 and was a regional semifinalist the following year.
Perhaps a return to such lofty destinations could be in store for the Lady Explorers in the coming years.
That sounds quite pleasing to third-year head coach Brad Disandis, who is 18-28 at Hudson.
"We have a lot of competition this year, which is great for us and great for the program," he said. "We have a lot of talent. I’m encouraged by the upcoming freshman class and our four returning seniors will be major contributors."
The Lady Explorers won’t have all of their "major contributors" from last fall. Hudson lost four key players to graduation.
Leading the way was outside hitter Dani Turner, who led the team in kills. Also graduating were defensive specialist/outside hitter Madeline Gaeta, middle hitter Anna Tomich, right-side hitter Lorenza Chiarappa and defensive specialist Nina Disandis, who is the coach’s daughter.
However, Hudson will be led by its talented and experienced senior quartet.
They are libero Kendall Mackay, who has more than 1,000 career digs for the Lady Explorers, setter Lindsay Sadler, a third-year varsity player, 5-foot-11 middle hitter Cami Madar and 5-11 outside hitter Regina Alvarez.
"Kendall provides a lot of energy," Disandis said. "Lindsay is a leader. She has improved so much. Cami had a great summer in the program.
"Regina gives us a lot of versatility. We’re expecting big things from her."
Since Disandis became the head coach, the Lady Explorers have been far from a pushover. But their occasional flashes have been overshadowed by their miscues at critical times.
"Traditionally, we have been right there," Disandis said. "We just can’t get over that hump. This is the largest compilation of talent we’ve had since I’ve been here."
Hudson was decimated by injuries last fall. While Disandis certainly hopes his team stays healthy in the coming months, a few aches and pains won’t be nearly as troubling this year, thanks to its overwhelming depth.
Two other returnees who made a significant impact last fall as underclassmen.
Cailynn Sullivan, a 5-10 junior middle blocker, showed all kinds of athletic ability in the front row before an injury sidelined her late in the 2017 season.
"Cailynn is a sky walker," Disandis said. "Her jumping ability is fun to watch."
The other junior who was a key player in the lineup a year ago is defensive specialist Amelia Hoffmeier.
"Along with Kendall, Amelia will solidify our back row," Disandis said. "She brings such energy and drive. The love of the game pours out of her. She is a great leader."
The rest of the junior class features setter Alexis Baloi, left-handed right-side hitter Olivia Stefanoni and back-row player Ciera Kent.
"We’ll need Alexis if Lindsay doesn’t stay healthy," Disandis said. "Olivia hits a heavy ball and is improving every day. Ciera is a great teammate with a great attitude."
The two sophomores are Morgan Gaeta, who saw time at outside hitter and defensive specialist last year, and left-handed right-side hitter Brooke Ramlow.
"Morgan saw a lot of varsity action last year," Disandis said. "I’m super excited about Brooke. She has really good ball control and is a smart player."
Three freshmen will have a chance to show off their talents right away.
They are 6-foot middle blocker/outside hitter Allyson Yanak, outside hitter Ericka Kutchin and defensive specialist Anna Faust, who recently played for a high-performance Junior Olympics team that competed in a national tournament in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
"Allyson has a super high ceiling with her height and athletic ability," Disandis said. "Ericka played well in in our summer league. Anna has a lot of potential."
Disandis’ varsity assistants are Lee Stoffl and his daughter, Alyssa Disandis, a 2014 Hudson graduate.
The junior varsity head coach is Amanda Brunner and Becky Lile will lead the freshman squad.
The Lady Explorers plan to use a 5-1 rotation that emphasizes blocking.
Disandis believes his team can make a significant jump in the win total after an inconsistent 2017 season.
Nonetheless, it won’t be easy in the very tough National Conference.
"The conference is brutal," Disandis said. "Nordonia is loaded and Stow and Wadsworth have key players back.
"I always believe we can beat anybody, but we have to execute. If we can sustain our mental toughness, I like our chances."
Hudson is scheduled to make its 2018 debut against Suburban League American Conference member Revere Aug. 21 at Ray "Buck" Hyser Gymnasium.
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.