by Frank Aceto
Associate Sports Editor
Hudson -- According to North Royalton head volleyball coach Kristin Hubbell, the Bears have not lost a fifth set during her 14-year coaching career.
Despite a valiant effort by Hudson, that trend continued for North Royalton Sept. 3.
The Bears earned a 25-23, 25-19, 23-25, 20-25, 15-10 victory over the Lady Explorers in a Northeast Ohio Conference matchup at Ray "Buck" Hyser Gymnasium.
The Lady Explorers trailed 23-20 in the third set before rallying. In the fifth set, the Bears (6-1) jumped out to a 6-1 lead. Hudson came back to score six of the next seven points to cut North Royalton's advantage to 8-7.
But the Lady Explorers (3-2) got no closer.
"I was proud of our girls for hanging with them," Hudson head coach Jessica Ciborek said. "We adjusted to their quick offense and that allowed us to play better as a team.
"The girls just ran out of gas in the end."
Hubbell has seen better performances from her team. But when it came down to the deciding fifth set, she liked her chances.
"We condition the heck out of these girls," Hubbell said. "We didn't want it to go to a fifth set, but we were prepared for it."
In volleyball, 180-degree momentum shifts seem to occur regularly. This match was no different.
The Lady Explorers scored the first five points of the match and had a 14-10 lead in the first set.
The Bears finally took the lead for good in the first set (19-18), thanks to a hitting error by Hudson.
North Royalton began the second set with a 9-2 spurt and never looked back.
And then things got interesting for both teams.
The Bears led most of the third set and were up 23-20 when outside hitter Casey Wroblewski delivered a thunderous kill.
But the Lady Explorers scored the next five points to take the third set. Outside hitter Celia Cristofoli gave Hudson the lead (24-23) with a kill and North Royalton made a hitting error on set point.
The Lady Explorers seemed completely rejuvenated at that point, but the Bears had the answers when it mattered most.
What made things so frustrating for Hudson was North Royalton's back-row play.
Whenever it seemed like the Lady Explorers were going to slam it home, the Bears found ways to dig those hard spikes and keep rallies alive.
"They dug everything," Ciborek said. "We need to clean up some of our mental errors, but it wouldn't be a good sign if we're playing our best now.
Middle hitter Krissy Mummey had 15 kills and six blocks and Cristofoli had 13 kills and 31 digs to lead Hudson. Middle hitter Jordan Mackay added 11 kills and eight blocks and Allison Rense had nine kills. Setter Amanda Przybocki finished with 52 assists.
Melissa Kozik led the Bears with 16 kills and Allison Baird had 35 digs.
Hudson was scheduled to host a quad with Solon, Massillon Jackson and Cortland Lakeview Sept. 7. Results were not available at press time. The Lady Explorers are set to entertain NOC Lake Division rival Cuyahoga Falls Sept. 10 at 6:30 p.m.