CUYAHOGA FALLS — The rivalry between Cuyahoga Falls and Stow-Munroe Falls might be eternal, but its also been one-sided on the volleyball court in recent years.
On Thurdsday at home, Cuyahoga Falls showed briefly in set two that it could get the better of Stow. Beyond that spurt, however, the Bulldogs pretty much had their way with the Black Tigers.
Stow scored its fourth straight three-set win in Suburban League National Conference play, handing Falls a 25-16, 25-20, 25-10 loss.
It had been busy week for both teams prior to the match. Stow traveled to Gilmour Academy Sept. 9 to participate in the Lancer Invitational, where it went 1-2. Stow beat Brunswick 25-15, 25-21, but then lost to GIlmour in 25-18, 25-23 and fell to Lake Catholic 25-11, 24-26, 25-15.
On Tuesday, Stow took out archrival Hudson 26-24, 25-10, 25-20 at the James G. Tyree Gymnasium.
As for Falls, the Black Tigers split a home tri-meet Sept. 9 versus backyard rivals Woodridge and Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy. Falls beat the Bulldogs 18-25, 25-18, 25-18, but lost to CVCA 25-16, 25-18.
Falls then was swept on the road Tuesday at Nordonia.
Stow’s record moved to 8-4, 4-2 in the National Conference, while Falls dropped to 2-10, 0-6 in the National Conference
Stow coach Miguel Ramirez acknowledged Falls has been struggling, but he wanted to see his team keep its focus.
"We kind of lost our focus a bit," Ramirez said. "We thought we could just play and they would wilt. My dad used to say, ‘There is no small enemy.’ Everyone is going to come after you, no matter what they had."
The serve proved to be a decisive weapon for Stow as the Bulldogs finished with 14 aces on the night. Senior Syndey Sterben led Stow with six aces, while setter Lauren Fair had five.
"It’s nice to be able to serve at someone that is struggling and get some easy points," Ramirez said. "Serve receipt is the toughest part of this game. It’s good to be able to save your legs and not have to play defense."
Falls coach Josh Stewart said his team has been up and down, both on serve receipt and serving.
"That’s been our issue all season," Stewart said. "We’ve done well serving and on serve receipt in practice, but then we can’t put it together in the games. We go through spells where we make aces and then can’t a serve in. It’a a matter of consistency."
Stow’s attack was consistent early on as it used outside hitter Lizzy Stefanov well. Stefanov buried seven of her match-high 14 kills in the first set. She also finished with 11 digs.
Stefanov also rattled off seven straight service points in the set, giving Stow an 18-8 lead. Stow middle blocker Sam Croyle also had five kills in the first set.
Falls was able to fend off three set points, but eventually put a kill attempt into the net to give Stow set one.
Falls got off to a much better start in set two, buoyed by a pair of blocks from middle hitter Emina Celic and two kills from outside hitter Hannah Merten. Merten led Falls with five kills.
Falls led by an many as 11-5 early in the set, but that’s when Stow found its serving stroke.
Sterben had four aces in the second set as she rattled off five straight service points give Stow a 16-13 lead.
Stow kept pushing its service advantage and a cross-court kill from Stefanov ended the second set.
"it’s just a matter of us getting in and staying in our system," Stewart said. "When we get out of system, it’s a crap shoot."
Fair made certain Stow got off to a good start in set three as she hit four straight aces and gave Stow an early 7-0 lead.
Falls never recovered from the early deficit as five different Bulldogs had kills in the set.
Stow closed out the match when right-side hitter Jacy Guider put a kill down on the line.
DiPaola had nine kills and 11 digs for Stow, while libero Alyssa Tallarico also had 11 digs. Fair finished with 31 assists.
Falls setter Becca Postlewaite finished with eight assists, while libero McKenzie Flick had 12 digs.
Stow enters what Ramirez called "the meat of the schedule" next week as Stow travels to Brecksville-Broadview Heights Sept. 19 and North Royalton Sept. 21. Both varsity games are set for 7 p.m.
Meanwhile, Falls also hits the road next week, traveling to Twinsburg Sept. 18 and North Royalton Sept. 19. Both matches start at 6:30 p.m.