TWINSBURG - When the two teams met last month, it was a battle of two evenly matched teams that, appropriately, went the distance.
Sadly for one of those squads, the second contest was decidedly one-sided.
The Hudson girls volleyball team dropped to 6-15 overall and 3-10 in the Suburban League National Conference after falling to host Twinsburg 25-17, 25-23, 25-20 Tuesday.
With the win, the Tigers, who lost to the Explorers in five sets Sept. 13 at Ray "Buck" Hyser Gymnasium, improved to 9-11 overall and 4-9 in the conference.
The Tigers played their usual scrappy defense. They also passed effectively and put balls to the floor when the opportunities presented themselves.
Twinsburg hasn’t had a particularly glittering record with first-year head coach Jess Mazanetz leading the way. But the Tigers are getting better as the season progresses.
Such a fact has Mazanetz feeling quite stoked with the postseason drawing near.
"Being a new coach, it has kind of been a process of slowly building expectations and building the trust that goes both ways," she said. "I'm happy with the way we're playing right now."
As for Hudson, Tuesday was a difficult evening in a variety of ways.
The Explorers couldn’t hold serve, defended and passed poorly and had their share of communication issues.
Those problems left their coach dumbfounded.
"I'm really disappointed," Hudson head coach Brad Disandis said. "We've been going in the right direction even though they don't add up to wins. We came out flat like we didn't want to play. It just went downhill from there."
Besides the Explorers’ array of struggles, the main reason Twinsburg dominated this time around was because of its lethal serving.
Left-handed senior Jill Spindler, classmate Cameron Beskur-Fontaine and sophomore Bryanna Curry served for a total of 40 points.
Spindler led the way with 17 points, including three aces, and Beskur-Fontaine and Curry contributed 14 and nine points, respectively. Beskur-Fontaine added 11 digs and Spindler had nine digs.
And of course, the Tigers have a dominant senior front-row player.
Simone Gest, who gave the Explorers all kinds of fits, particularly in the fifth set, the last time these two teams played, was a force on the outside and in the middle.
Gest, who was named the tournament Most Valuable Player at the Mayfield Invitational last Saturday, finished with 12 kills and 15 digs.
"Simone is our leader on our defense and she's our leader on offense," Mazanetz said. "She's the total package."
Gest had plenty of help from her friends, too.
Curry (six kills) and junior outside hitter Alyssa Willis (seven kills) also were forces at the net, thanks to the setting of senior Kamaree Walker (eight assists) and junior Ally Schank (11 assists). Senior Caryn Radcliff added 10 digs.
Twinsburg had fun taking care of business, too.
The Tigers enjoyed each other’s company on this night. Such a sight was a welcome one for Mazanec, who led the cheers from the sideline.
"How I act on the sideline is how they will act on the floor," Mazanec said.
Despite its subpar evening, Hudson certainly had its chances, particularly in the second set.
The Explorers regained serve trailing 24-23. Alas, it all came apart from there as Twinsburg took the second set, thanks to a Hudson hitting error.
"They're making mistakes at the wrong time," Disandis said. "It just compounds everything that happens."
"We do not play how we practice. We practice so much better than how it translates when we get out in the big lights."
Disandis also had high praise for Twinsburg, particularly its ability to keep rallies alive.
"They are tough to get ball down on," Disandis said. "They move and swing and they get in the right angle and they take angles away. They are really tough to beat."
Senior outside hitter Regina Alvarez had 13 kills and sophomore outside hitter Brooke Ramlow had 11 kills for the Explorers.
Senior middle blocker Cami Madar added six kills and two blocks and junior middle blocker Cailynn Sullivan finished with seven kills for Hudson.
The Explorers’ back row was led by senior libero Kendall Mackay (27 digs), junior defensive specialist Amelia Hoffmeier (14 digs) and sophomore defensive specialist Morga Gaeta (13 digs).
Hudson senior setter Lindsay Sadler contributed 29 assists.
"Hudson is one of the scrappiest teams we have played this season," Mazanetz said. "There were several times we celebrated, thinking the ball was down, but they had made a hustle play to keep it alive.
"They play with great defensive intensity so it means a lot that Brad was complimentary of our defense. We have really been focusing on being disciplined and transitioning to our defensive positions more quickly.
"We also switched Simone and Cameron from left back to middle back because they both read so well and that has certainly paid off."
The Tigers received the ninth seed at the Solon Division I sectional-district tournament. Twinsburg is scheduled to play eighth-seeded Bedford in a sectional semifinal contest Monday at 6 p.m.
Solon got the top seed and Bainbridge Township Kenston, Nordonia and Brecksville-Broadview Heights earned the second, third and fourth seeds, respectively.
"Early in the season, we talked a lot about competing - just keeping our focus on the next point and not getting frustrated when we were down," Mazanetz said. "I'm really proud of this team because I think we have come a long way in a couple of short months.
"Now our conversations are more about execution and winning the close games rather than just hanging in and competing."
The Explorers received the sixth seed at the Stow-Munroe Falls Division I sectional-district tournament.
Hudson is set to play 11th-seeded Kent Roosevelt in a sectional semifinal match Oct. 17 at James G. Tyree Gymnasium. Play is scheduled to begin at 7:15 p.m.
Walsh Jesuit got the top seed and Stow-Munroe Falls, Akron Archbishop Hoban and Uniontown Green earned the second, third and fourth seeds, respectively.
"Besides the Catholic school league, this is the second toughest conference, arguably, in the state," Disandis said. "But I'm not making excuses. We're good enough to win games. We don't know how to win games."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.