Playing two of Northeast Ohio’s best volleyball teams on back-to-back nights is never easy.
That was the task Stow-Munroe Falls had to deal with last week — and the fact the Bulldogs were disappointed with a split speaks volumes.
Stow hosted Suburban League National Conference rival Wadsworth Tuesday and avenged an earlier loss to the Grizzlies, scoring a 25-19, 19-25, 25-23, 25-21 win.
About 24 hours later, Stow was back in James G. Tyree Gymnasium to take on Division III state power Gilmour Academy. The Bulldogs gave the Lancers everything they could handle before falling in five sets. 25-22, 23-25, 25-17, 24-26, 15-9.
Stow’s record moved to 9-7, 5-4 in the National Conference.
Bulldogs coach Miguel Ramirez said the two-game span was a measuring stick.
"We expected to play well and we expected to win," Ramirez said. "It’s a tough test to play teams like that back to back. I know the girls were disappointed we didn’t win both. At the end of the day, we played good volleyball and were able to win one of the games."
Stow came into the Wadsworth contest looking to avenge a five-set defeat to the Grizzlies earlier this season.
"I think we had a little bit of a chip on our shoulders," Ramirez said. "We felt at Wadsworth, it could have gone either way and that we left some points on the floor. We told the girls that we didn’t have a great record against Wadsworth and I think our team finally felt like they had enough. It was a very good night.
Stow was able to win the initial set 25-19 after it had dropped the first two sets at Wadsworth. Junior outside hitter Lizzy Stefanov was all over the floor for Stow, leading the Bulldogs with 18 kills and 18 digs. Setter Lauren Fair dished out 42 assists on the night.
"We were able to change our defensive scheme a bit to slow down their outside hitters," Ramirez said. "Nobody can really keep [Wadsworth junior Kacie Evans] in check. We were able to keep balls in play and force them to score on us."
Much like Wadsworth, Stow had played Gilmour earlier in the season, though that was part of the Lancer Invitational. Stow lost in two sets.
This time, the Bulldogs took the Lancers into a five-set marathon before falling.
Despite the loss, Ramirez had nothing but positives to say about his team, noting Gilmour was one of the elite programs in the state. The Lancers have reached the state final four in Division III each of the last six seasons.
"We just lost a heartbreaker," Ramirez said. "I think we’ve closed the gap on Gilmour. I told the team we played a very good match and they should be proud of themselves.
"It was a truly a battle," he added. "Every time they scored points on us, we were able to score points on them. It was a well-played match on both sides."
Stefanov led the Bulldogs again with 17 kills, while libero Alyssa Tallarico had a big night with 28 digs. Fair had another big passing night with 44 assists.
Having played two intense contests, Ramirez said he hoped his team had something left for its game with Nordonia Thursday.
"We beat Nordonia last time we played them by controlling the tempo," Ramirez said. "I expect our players to be a little tired. Our role players are going to have to step up."
"We have a lot of capable people," he added. "The saving grace is we don’t have to travel to their place. The message is you can’t take anyone lightly in this division."
Stow hits the road for a pair of National Conference games next week, traveling to Twinsburg Tuesday and Hudson Thursday. Varsity game time is at 7 p.m. both nights.