STOW — When she was told about her new role, Brooke Ramlow may have wondered if she was on Candid Camera.
Or maybe Punk’d may have been more appropriate.
"I thought he was joking," Ramlow said.
Ramlow is referring to Brad Disandis, who is the head coach of the Hudson girls volleyball team. Look at it this way, if you’re as tall as Ramlow and you’re blessed with a lethal left arm that can crush balls at will, having suspicions of Ashton Kutcher lurking around the corner isn’t such a far-fetched possibility.
Oddly enough, Disandis was dead serious. He asked his talented front-row attacker to consider something that seemed forbidden in her DNA.
Disandis wanted his talented junior to try setting.
"I never really focused on it a lot," Ramlow admitted.
The experiment will likely continue on Hudson Aurora Road the rest of the season. Thus far, it seems to be confirming her coach’s hypothesis rather beautifully.
Thanks to Ramlow’s plethora of skills, Hudson is off to its best start in six years. The Explorers, who also picked up three more wins Saturday at Ray "Buck" Hyser Gymnasium, improved to 8-3 overall and 3-2 in the vaunted Suburban League National Conference after earning a convincing 25-18, 25-19, 25-23 victory over host Stow-Munroe Falls. The match took place Thursday at James G. Tyree Gymnasium.
Ramlow finished with 11 assists against the Bulldogs. Although she is quickly learning the fine art of passing this fall, Ramlow hasn’t completely abandoned her role as a terminator. She also finished with a team-high 11 kills.
The gifted jack-of-all-trades can play some defense too. If she wasn’t playing the role of front-row assassin or unflappable quarterback, Ramlow thrived as a defensive maestro, thanks to her eight digs.
In other words, change is good for the soft-spoken teenager. And it has the potential to get significantly better once the postseason takes place.
"When it started happening, I thought it was really fun to be in control and take leadership of the court," Ramlow said. "I know I can control some of the plays and have a big part in them."
Disandis decided to relay the news to his receptive pupil less than three weeks before the season began. Fortunately for the affable coach, he didn’t feel the least bit uncomfortable.
"We asked her to start setting on Aug. 1," Disandis said. "She’s a special player. She has a great attitude. The girls respond to her, as well. She’s a leader. There are big things on the horizon for her."
Like a number of its opponents in the always formidable National Conference, Stow has been a thorn in Hudson’s side ever since the Suburban League switched to a 15-team, two-conference format.
The struggling Bulldogs didn’t give the vastly improved Explorers a free pass, though. In fact, Stow led most of the third set.
"We have the same skills," Ramlow said of the Bulldogs. "Even with all of the other sports, we just have such a competitive spirit. Sometimes, everyone gets a little too competitive or too amped up about it.
"I think this time we did a good job of controlling ourselves and bringing out the best in us because we really wanted to win this time."
Before Stow made one last push when it was on life support, Hudson was clearly in charge. That was particularly evident when the Explorers raced out to a 9-1 lead in the opening set.
During that glorious stretch, Hudson seemed to have everything working. Well, maybe not everything.
A versatile front-row marvel certainly didn’t think so.
"I still think we can play better," Ramlow said. "We can always play better. In practice, we talk a lot about controlling ourselves and having a mental component.
"We still have to control ourselves. We work on it a lot by doing a bunch of drills that help us with our mental ability to stay in the game and calm down. [We want to] focus on what’s happening on the court and not around us."
While she takes pride in feeding her front-row strikers candy, Ramlow hasn’t lost interest in taking her share of violent swings.
Either way, Ramlow’s extraordinary transformation is no practical joke.
"It feels good to get a hit, but it also feels good to know that you contributed in a few other plays and help your team out," she said.
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.