Thanks to heavy hitters such as Jordan Mackay, Krissy Mummey and Celia Cristofoli, the Hudson girls volleyball team had its greatest season ever in 2013.
That lethal swinging trio led the Explorers all the way to the state semifinals.
This year’s bunch may not have the same triple threat that nearly led Hudson to the promised land six years ago.
But the Explorers won’t be lacking front-row enforcers any time soon.
"The beauty of our team is we have a boatload of hitters this year," said fourth-year head coach Brad Disandis, who is 26-45 at Hudson. "We’re very balanced on offense since we have so many people contributing. We’re also much bigger than we were in years past."
Having this many weapons in his artillery will be a welcome sight for Disandis. The Explorers have not had a winning season since 2014 when the Mackay-led team advanced to regional play.
The Explorers’ recent past hasn’t been a total washout, though. Hudson, which finished 8-17 overall and 3-11 in the freakishly talented Suburban League National Conference last fall, has reached district play three times in the last four years.
Last year, the Explorers just missed advancing to their first district final since 2015. Hudson lost a thrilling five-set marathon to National Conference rival Stow-Munroe Falls in a Stow Division I district semifinal match.
Considering its consistent stellar play when the stakes are highest, can Hudson make the giant leap to a place that has been abandoned since its formidable triumvirate last ruled northeast Ohio’s throne?
"We had a meeting [Monday] and the girls established their goals," Disandis said. "It was refreshing to hear what they expect from themselves and each other."
Depth doesn’t seem to be too much of a concern for the ladies who ruthlessly pound volleyballs into submission at Ray "Buck" Hyser Gymnasium.
But the Explorers will be missing quite a few friends in high places.
They are outside hitter Regina Alvarez, middle hitter Cami Madar, setter Lindsay Sadler and libero Kendall Mackay, who finished with more than 1,000 career digs for Hudson.
The Explorers have three seniors on their roster this season. They are fourth-year varsity player Amelia Hoffmeier, who will take the younger Mackay’s spot at the libero position; three-year varsity player Cailynn Sullivan, an explosive 5-foot-10 leaper who is switching to the right-side hitter spot after spending last year in the middle; and Ciera Kent, who will line up as a defensive specialist.
"Amelia did a phenomenal job stepping in for Kendall last year," Disandis said.
Two juniors return to the starting lineup. They are third-year outside hitter Morgan Gaeta and 5-11 right-side hitter Brooke Ramlow, who also plans to handle some setting duties.
"The setter position is new to Brooke," Disandis said. "She has done really well with the transition. She had a great year as a sophomore. She’s a complete player."
Another junior who expects to contribute is defensive specialist Hannah Savarino.
Disandis is particularly pumped about his sophomore class. Leading the way is 6-1 outside hitter Allyson Yanak, a starter last season, and Anna Faust, another returning starter who excelled as a defensive specialist.
Other returning sophomores are Ella Beard (middle/right-side hitter) and Ericka Kutchin (outside hitter). Yanak’s twin sister, Alaina, is expected to see time at setter while Lindsay Sadler’s younger sister, Sydney, is planning to contribute as a setter and a defensive specialist.
Disandis also welcomes transfer student Page Gross, a 6-2 middle hitter who played for Parma Padua Franciscan last fall.
Two freshmen won’t have much time to get their feet wet. And that’s not a bad thing.
Middle hitter Rylyn Dearstine and setter Melissa Hansen are expected to perform under the varsity lights right away.
"Rylyn can jump out of a gym," Disandis said. "Melissa will be one of our starting setters."
Hudson plans to utilize a 6-2 offense with two setters running the offense from the back row.
"We’re going to focus on playing fast," Disandis said. "We have size and athleticism all over the place. We have five kids who have a touch height of 9-9 [9 feet, 9 inches] and above. We’re going to play a really good brand of volleyball."
Lee Stoffl enters her fifth year as a varsity assistant coach. Amanda Brunner is the Explorers junior varsity coach and Becky Lile will lead the freshman team. Both Brunner and Lile were on the coaching staff last year.
Hudson is scheduled to make its 2019 debut at Aurora Tuesday in a Suburban League crossover showdown. The varsity match is set to begin at 6:30 p.m.
As for Disandis, he’s living the good life right now. He has a master plan and his players are soaking up every word.
"All the girls have been so coachable," Disandis said. "They’ve shown the ability to take instruction and implement what we’re asking to do. They have been able to apply changes on the fly. We’re looking forward to a great season."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.