STOW — For Stow-Munroe Falls volleyball, this past week could be called "rivalry week."
It’s not often any team plays its three backyard rivals in a row, but Stow did just that — traveling to Hudson Tuesday, hosting Kent Roosevelt Wednesday and hosting Cuyahoga Falls Thursday.
Stow picked up a pair of four-set victories to start, beating Hudson 25-16, 19-25, 25-20, 25-23 and then downing Roosevelt 25-20, 18-25, 25-14, 25-20.
With its rival having played eight sets of volleyball in the previous 48 hours, Falls was hoping to catch the Bulldogs with some tired legs Thursday at James G. Tyree Gymnasium.
If there was any fatigue for the Bulldogs, however, it didn’t show. Stow was able to score a straight-sets win 25-14, 25-13, 25-23 over the Black Tigers.
Stow improved to 7-4, 5-1 in the Suburban League National Conference. Falls, which also lost to Nordonia 25-29, 25-27, 25-9. 25-14 on Tuesday, dropped to 4-7, 0-6 in the National Conference.
Bulldogs coach Lizzy McDade paid tribute to her team’s fitness after its third match in as many days.
"We put a lot of the work in the offseason and we lift during the season as well," McDade said. "We’ve got a great strength coach and everyone has done a lot to support the girls."
By contrast, Falls coach Lisa Wood was at a loss to explain her team’s flat start against the Bulldogs.
"We were slow starters," Wood said. "I don’t know what it was about the lull we had. We didn’t seem to pick it up until the third set."
Stow was in attack mode early against the Black Tigers. While outside hitter Lizzy Stefanov led the Bulldogs hitting charge, McDade praised middle hitters Sam Croyle and Molly Richards for their work blocking the Black Tigers’ attack. Croyle led the Bulldogs with six blocks.
Thanks of the serve of libero Claire O’Verko, who had three aces on the night, Stow took an 18-11 lead in the first set and never looked back. Stow claimed the first set when Falls’ Tylir Saxon committed a service error.
In the second set, Stow’s offense was even more dominant, as five different Bulldogs had killing the set. Up 10-4 early in the set, McDade was able to rotate in some of her reserve players.
The Bulldog reserves kept the lead well, however, as junior Kira Philpot ended the second set with a stuff kill.
Falls’ offense finally started clicking in the third set, as Saxon was able to get some kills down.
In fact, Falls has Stow on the ropes at 23-20, but then Stow got the serve back and O’Verko served out the match. Stefanov left no doubt, killing the final three points of the match.
Stefanov finished with 16 kills and 13 digs, while O’Verko had 19 digs. Setter Lauren Fair had 32 assist on the night.
"We had quite a few talks about mental toughness," McDade said. "They’ve made some improvements already, as you can see"
Saxon led Falls with five kills and three blocks, while setter Sarah Miller had 14 assists. Libero Morgan Frame had 16 digs and thee aces.
"It’s always a rivalry, so I thought we were ready for this," Wood said. "It’s only the first round, so we’ll see what happens."
Stow was set to take a five-game win streak in the the Jackson Invitational. The Bulldogs will next host Brecksville-Broadview Heights Tuesday 7 p.m.
Falls will next see action Tuesday at home when it hosts North Royalton at 7 p.m.
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, firstname.lastname@example.org or @MLeonard_RPC