MACEDONIA — It had been a tough week for Stow-Munroe Falls volleyball before it headed north Thursday to take on Nordonia.
On Monday, the Bulldogs won in five sets over Tallmadge at home 25-19, 17-25, 22-25, 25-18, 15-11, but the Bulldogs lost libero Claire O’Verko to an elbow injury early in the match. The depleted Bulldogs then suffered a straight sets loss 17-25, 14-25, 15-25 at Wadsworth Tuesday.
By contrast, Nordonia came into the contest confident after a 25-20, 25-13, 25-18 win over Hudson Tuesday.
O’Verko was back on the court for Stow Thursday, but the Bulldogs ran into a Knight squad that was on fire.
Nordonia’s offense was relentless, leading the Knights to a 25-14, 25-17, 25-22 win over the Bulldogs, avenging a four-set loss to Stow earlier this season.
Nordonia improved to 11-6, 5-4 in the National Conference, while Stow dropped to 11-7, 6-4 in the National Conference, having dropped three straight conference matches.
Nordonia coach Lori Snyder said it was her team’s top three performances of the season, as the Knights got contributions from all over the floor.
"Offense is definitely our strong suit," Snyder said. "The last week, we’ve really worked on our defense to make sure we can get the ball to our hitters. We kept balls off the ground tonight, which let us keep up the offense."
Stow coach Lizzy McDade said her team simply was not sharp.
"We just made too many errors all the way around the team," McDade said. "At the beginning of the third set, we had only two girls were positive in the their plus/minus (hitting percentage). We had way too many errors."
Nordonia seized the initiative in the first set, as six different Knights contributed kills in the opening set alone.
Nordonia took control of the set when right-side hitter Madison Knight rattled off five straight service points, forcing Stow to call timeout with Nordonia up 14-8.
Nordonia never looked back and closed out the set with two straight blocks, including a stuff block by sophomore Joy Banks on set point.
Banks had one of her best matches as a Knight, finishing with 11 kills, 11 digs and two blocks.
In the second set, Nordonia seized control off the serve of senior Megan Alders, as he led the Knights to a 12-6 lead off five straight service points.
Stow fought back when senior Lizzy Stefanov started finding her hitting stroke. Stow cut the lead to 20-18 at one point, but the Bulldogs never got the lead in the second set.
Stefanov — who is bound for Tulane University — led all players with 15 kills, along with two aces. Alders — who has verbally committed to Wright State — had 12 kills and two aces but had more help at the net.
Nordonia freshman middel hitter Mya Sopata was the focal point of the match at times, as she finished with nine kills and two blocks.
"She just jumps out of the sky," Snyder said said of Sopata. "I’m glad that she’s not on the other side of the net."
Nordonia claimed the second set when Stow outside hitter Ryleigh Schelien put a kill attempt out of bounds.
In set three, Stow finally seemed to find its footing. Stefanov and Schelien each found their hitting stroke, as the Bulldogs lead 18-13 at one point in the set.
However, Nordonia rallied with the help of some funky bounces at the net. After tying the set at 20. Two kills from Alders and a kill from Banks got Nordonia to set point.
A kill from Nordonia’s Dominique Evans put the match to bed.
Nordonia setter Emily Chrustic put up 40 assists. Stow setter Lauren Fair finished with 26 assists. O’Verko led Stow with nine digs.
McDade said Stow needed to rediscover its form with the postseason coming up.
"We just to play the way we did at the beginning of the third set," McDade said. "They’re capable of doing it and they know they are."
Nordonia was set to host a rare league game Saturday vs. Twinsburg at 1 p.m. followed by a trip to Brecksville-Broadview Heights Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. and a home game with Cuyahoga Falls Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
Stow hosts Twinsburg Tuesday and Hudson on Thursday. Both matches are at 7 p.m.
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, firstname.lastname@example.org or @MLeonard_RPC