CUYAHOGA FALLS — Both the Hudson and Cuyahoga Falls volleyball teams recently experienced a rude awakening after a nice honeymoon to start the season.
At one point, the Explorers started off 2-0 with a pair of five-set thrillers and the Black Tigers racked up three straight wins.
But the rugged Suburban League National Conference has proven to be cruel to many opponents over the years as both teams entered Thursday’s showdown with three straight losses.
In the end, Hudson could take a deep breath and enjoy a much-needed win. Falls, on the other hand, is still trying to regain its early-season magic.
The Explorers improved to 3-3 overall and 1-2 in the National Conference after posting a 25-21, 25-11, 25-14 victory over the host Black Tigers at Tom Jones Court.
Falls, which also dropped a 25-7, 25-13, 25-9 setback to conference rival Wadsworth Tuesday at home, fell to 3-4 overall and 0-3 in the conference.
Hudson held off the scrappy Black Tigers in the first set and then had very little trouble the rest of the way.
To say the Explorers had been out of sorts mentally in recent days was a rather major understatement.
On Thursday, Hudson got out of its funk with stellar serving, strong defense and an efficient attack from the front row.
"We needed a win badly," Explorers head coach Brad Disandis said. "I know they (the Black Tigers) are well coached. We struggled with them during summer league."
As for Falls, there were times when it had some rhythm, particularly on its serve. Unfortunately, once the Black Tigers got into a rut, they struggled mightily to get out of it.
"We’re trying so hard to change the attitude," first-year Falls head coach Lisa Wood said. "We dig ourselves into a hole and we have trouble coming out of that hole."
If it found a weakness in serve receive, Hudson had a knack for going on long runs to put sets out of reach.
In the second set, outside hitter Regina Alvarez scored six straight points. Back-row player Morgan Gaeta contributed eight straight points off her serve in the third set.
Alvarez and setter Lindsay Sadler led the Explorers with 11 service points apiece and Gaeta finished with 10 points, including four aces.
"Our goal, win lose or draw, was to play good volleyball," Disandis said. "We wanted to be disciplined, be in the right spots defensively and pass the ball."
Wood certainly doesn’t want to see her team get steamrolled by the rest of its conference rivals. But Thursday was progress after a major step backward against the Grizzlies.
"It was definitely a step forward," Wood said. "We played much better as a team. We got to more balls."
Just about everybody enjoyed the feast for Hudson.
Middle hitter Cailynn Sullivan had 11 kills and three blocks and Alvarez had nine kills and two blocks.
"I was happy with our attack," Disandis said. "Cailynn did her thing and was a big force at the net."
Middle hitter Cami Madar posted six kills and four blocks for the Explorers and libero Kendall Mackay finished with 24 digs and three aces. Sadler added 33 assists and three aces.
Also contributing for Hudson were back-row standouts Amelia Hoffmeier (15 digs) and Anna Foust (10 digs).
"We can make some incredibly difficult plays easy and we can make easy plays difficult," Disandis said. "We have a bunch of kids who work hard. They want to get better.
"We spent a lot of time talking. It was about getting their minds right and they responded. They played a pretty clean game."
Kaelyn Staples led the Black Tigers with six kills and Tylir Saxon finished with five kills.
Ashley Shafer contributed 12 digs and two aces and Olivia Lemmon had three blocks.
Also faring well for Falls were setter Sarah Miller (21 assists) and libero Morgan Frame (seven digs).
"Our seniors are incredibly competitive," Wood said. "We have good hitters, blockers and servers. We just need to put the ball down and score more points."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.