STOW — Long before his unorthodox writing style led to a feature film that is widely regarded as one of the top horror movies of all time, Stephen King had to deal with some unwanted adversity.
Lots and lots of it, as a matter of fact.
Legend has it the American author was rejected by nearly 30 publishers before one of his most famous books hit the shelves.
That would be Carrie.
Liz McDade knows she has a potential bestseller. She also knows it could lead to a box-office smash like the creepy supernatural flick did in 1976.
Thus far, though, the Stow-Munroe Falls head girls volleyball coach has received nothing but rejection letters.
The latest letter came from a certain longtime rival, which happens to make its home just 15 minutes away from Graham Road.
The host Bulldogs continued their struggles this fall after losing to Hudson 25-18, 25-19, 25-23 Thursday at James G. Tyree Gymnasium.
With the loss, Stow, which previously had its way with the Explorers in recent years, dropped to 2-8 overall and 2-4 in the Suburban League National Conference.
Hudson, on the other hand, appears to be on the rise. The Explorers improved to 5-3 overall and 4-2 in the conference.
As for McDade, she’ll continue revising what she strongly believes is a riveting novel. Nevertheless, her team’s erratic and inconsistent play has given her a bad case of writer’s block.
"When we’re not getting the results we’re working so hard for, I am constantly re-evaluating the lineup, looking at the stats, trying to make sure I have the right people in the right spots," McDade said.
"It will come together. I have no doubt about that. The question is, how long?"
The Hudson players certainly don’t mind delaying McDade’s pursuit to majesty.
Thanks to some excellent passing, thunderous hitting and the precise, high-velocity serving of Morgan Gaeta, the Explorers jumped all over the Bulldogs early.
Hudson built a 9-1 lead when Brooke Ramlow blocked a Stow spike. It was the Explorers’ seventh straight point off Gaeta’s serve.
In a sport where the momentum frequently switches 180 degrees in the blink of an eye, Hudson’s near flawless play hit a bit of a rough patch. Thus, the Bulldogs got back in the match just as their opponents looked nearly invincible. In fact, when Emily Dittman crushed an ace, the Explorers’ once insurmountable lead was trimmed to 15-12.
"It was extremely competitive," McDade said. "We knew coming in that they obviously wanted to beat us. They’ve had a phenomenal season so far. They’re competing against everybody they’ve played against."
It didn’t take long for Hudson to regain control of the match.
The Explorers won six of the last nine points to take the first set. Cailynn Sullivan put matters to rest with a well-placed kill on set point.
The second set was more of the same. Hudson built a comfortable lead and didn’t look back. However, the proud Bulldogs (2-8, 2-4), who recently switched to a triple-middle attack, gained some momentum with some much-needed stellar play when their backs were against the wall.
Stow also benefited from a series of hitting errors by the suddenly careless Explorers.
In the end, though, the Bulldogs’ momentum was short-lived.
Despite trailing most of the third set, Hudson scored the last four points to finish the match as Stow faltered down the stretch. Amelia Hoffmeier won the last three points on her serve and Ramlow delivered the final blow with a monstrous kill on match point.
"I don’t think we underestimated them at all," McDade said. "We just did what we’ve been doing all season, which was make too many errors. We have given other teams matches because we make errors too early in the game and then we can’t come back from it.
"And then we have a lead, we make too many errors and it’s a tie game. We just have not been able to play consistently yet."
Ramlow, who is thriving as both a point guard and a finisher for the surging Explorers. finished with 11 kills, 11 assists and eight digs.
Gaeta showcased a lethal serve throughout the evening. She had 12 service points and was a defensive force with 16 digs. Gaeta shined offensively too as she smashed home four kills.
Page Gross delivered some strong serving, as well, with seven service points. She also had four kills and three blocks.
Rylyn Dearstine finished with six kills and was even more impressive as a defensive force with four blocks.
Sullivan and Allyson Yanak gave Hudson even more explosive depth in the front row with five kills and two blocks apiece.
Also faring well for the Explorers were their unsung trio of Hoffmeier (25 digs and two aces), Melissa Hansen (22 assists and six digs) and Anna Faust (12 digs).
The Bulldogs’ leading lady was Samantha Croyle, who had 10 kills, seven digs and four blocks. Molly Richards added seven kills and Kira Philpot finished with three blocks for Stow.
Not to be outdone, Olivia Harris contributed 26 assists and eight digs and Ryleigh Schelien had 11 digs for the Bulldogs.
McDade played for Stow when it reached the Division I state semifinals in 2009. What made that run so astonishing? The Bulldogs had a losing record heading into postseason play.
"Until all the pieces come together, there’s not much else we can do other than compete," McDade said. "It’s a long season. Everybody in our sport makes playoffs. All you have to do is be ready to go in October.
"I think this group will get there. I don’t think they’re used to thinking of themselves as underdogs because we had [2019 graduate] Lizzy [Stefanov] and other dominant players for a long time. It’s definitely a different mentality."
Before he became a revolutionary film producer, a certain pioneer of the American animation industry once failed spectacularly before hitting it big.
In fact, that person was fired by a newspaper for lacking imagination and good ideas.
His name is Walt Disney.
Like the world-renowned animator, McDade will continue to work tirelessly to get her alma mater back to its Magic Kingdom.
As her playing career suggests, it’s a good bet McDade feels quite comfortable in the Cinderella Castle.
"Other teams respect us, but they’re not afraid to play us any more," she said. "We need to show them that we still deserve the same respect."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.