STOW — Over the past few years, the Stow-Munroe Falls volleyball team has had a tendency to play a lot of five set matches — especially in the Suburban League National Conference.
That tendency irritated Stow coach Miguel Ramirez, so he was probably happy to see his team get a trio of sweeps this week.
On Sept. 2, Stow scored a 25-18, 25-19, 25-19 win over Aurora, followed by 25-16, 25-11, 25-17 win over Nordonia at home Sept. 6.
Then on Sept. 7, Stow welcomed Twinsburg to the James G. Tyree Gymnasium. Although the Tigers made Stow work for it, the Bulldogs notched their third straight three-set win, scoring a 25-16, 25-17, 25-23 victory.
Stow improved to 5-3, 2-2 in the National Conference, while Twinsburg dropped to 2-3, 1-2 in the conference.
Ramirez made it clear he didn’t feel Stow could take the Tigers lightly.
"I don’t feel anyone is a ‘should win’ game in this conference," Ramirez said. "Twinsburg has always historically played us tough and we knew they would again."
It was a tough week for Twinsburg, which was coming off a loss to defending Division I state champion Brecksville-Broadview Heights Sept. 6. The Bees won 25-12, 25-8, 25-11.
"This whole conference is going to be tough," Thomas said. "It’s nice to get the first go-around through, so we’re able to prepare for them next time."
Twinsburg’s preparations had to include dealing with Stow outside hitters Lizzy Stefanov and Julia DiPaola. The Bulldogs gunners were swinging hard in the first set.
Stow seized an early 9-5 lead in set one thanks to four straight service point from setter Lauren Fair. The Bulldogs kept extending the lead from there, as Stefanov had six of her game-high 16 kills in the first set alone. Stefanov, who recently made a verbal commitment to play volleyball at Tulane University, also finished with 18 digs and two blocks in the match.
"It’s awesome to play with her," DiPaola said of Stefanov. "We know we can score from anywhere in our rotation. Our middle blockers are great at calling for the ball and pulling the block in for us."
Despite six kills in the first set from Twinsburg outside hitter Bella Vargo, Stow claimed the first set when Tiger senior Kelsey Dunn put a kill attempt out of bounds.
The second set proved to be a sloppy opener for both teams, as hitting and service errors piled up.
"Our serve was inconsistent tonight," Ramirez said. "We had some aces, but we also had some service errors, which is uncharacteristic of us."
However, with Stow up 17-16, the Bulldogs got their act together on won 8 of the last 9 points in the set. Junior Clair O’Verko served up an ace on set point to close the set out.
After dealing with Stow’s constant attacks, Thomas chose to put freshman Bryanna Curry — her tallest player — on dedicated block duty in front of DiPaola and Stefanov.
"I told her to get a hand in their faces and nothing else," Thomas said.
The move worked as Curry finished with four blocks, helping Twinsburg erase an early 4-0 deficit.
The third set was close all the way home, despite some nice kills from Fair and middle blocker Molly Richards.
A block by Curry tied the set at 23, but Stow got to match point and then claimed the match when Twinsburg put a kill attempt into the net.
DiPaola was all over the court, finishing with nine kills and 19 digs. Fair finished with 31 assists, while Stow libero Allysa Tallarico finished with a team-high 20 digs.
Vargo also was all over the court, as the senior led Twinsburg with 10 kills, 15 digs and three aces. Tiger libero Kaitlyn Karhoff had 19 digs, while setter Cassidy Liotta had 13 assists and six digs.
Stow will host Hudson Sept. 12 before travelling to Cuyahoga Falls Sept. 14. Varsity game time both nights is set for 7 p.m.
Twinsburg has a busy week ahead, as it hosts North Royalton Sept. 11, travels to Wadsworth Sept. 12 and hosts Hudson Sept. 14. Varsity game times are set for 6:30 p.m.