by Michael Leonard
Hudson -- Jessica Ciborek couldn't get the smile off her face.
"It has been a great week," she said.
That might be an understatement for the Hudson head volleyball coach.
Ciborek gave birth to her first son, Evan, last week, and was back on the bench in time for her team's match with Wadsworth in Division I regional semifinal Oct. 30 at Ray "Buck" Hyser Gymnasium.
Ciborek saw her team play one of the best matches of the season, putting the Lady Explorers on the verge of the first state final four berth in school history.
After a tight early first set, Hudson eventually dominated Wadsworth and won 25-17, 25-14, 25-11, avenging a loss to the Grizzlies on Sept. 21.
The Lady Explorers (20-6) advanced to the regional final, where they were set to face Massillon Jackson Nov. 3 at Hudson. Jackson, a state semifinalist last year, defeated Mayfield 25-18, 25-16, 25-18 in the other semifinal Oct. 30. Results from the regional final were not available at press time.
Ciborek said every single member of her team contributed to the win.
"We started off a bit slow, but after that, we played great," Ciborek said. "Defensively, we picked up everything. Offensively, we attacked the net.
"We've been preparing these girls for games of this caliber all year long. We bumped up our schedule strength and it has helped us."
Wadsworth coach Jill Klingbeil was as crestfallen as Ciborek was elated.
"Hudson played a great match," she said. "They definitely brought their 'A' game.
"It seemed every time we had a chance to get back in it, we were unable to take advantage of their mistakes.
"We had a lot of unforced errors. We were making more errors than they were. It was not our night."
Early in the first set, there was no sign the match would turn into a rout. In fact, Hudson and Wadsworth tied on points one through 10 in the first set.
However, Hudson's senior middle hitter then intervened. Given that it was the night before Halloween, perhaps it was fitting the Lady Explorers' most dangerous player was a Mummey.
Krissy Mummey made a huge block to make it 12-10 Hudson. A few plays later, Mummey scored three straight service points to make 19-14 and force Klingbeil to call time-out.
"I wanted this game more than any of my high school career," Mummey said. "I just had to play hard."
Wadsworth did not overcome the deficit as the first set ended when the Lady Grizzlies could not return a serve from Hudson's Gina Holland, who had a good night on the service line, finishing with 20 service points
In the second set, the Lady Explorers started to assert themselves. It seemed like Hudson was blocking or digging every kill attempt from Wadsworth.
"Our plan was just to keep our blockers on their hitters because we knew who they were," Ciborek said.
"We wanted to set our defense behind them well and we did."
Hudson took an early 8-3 lead, forcing the Lady Grizzlies to call time-out, but the lead only got larger. Mummey, Jordan Mackay and Celia Cristofoli led the attack as the Lady Explorers led by as much as 19-9.
Mummey led Hudson with 12 kills and four blocks, while Mackay had 10 kills and four blocks. Cristofoli led the Lady Explorers with 13 digs.
The second set ended when Wadsworth was called for hitting the ball twice, giving Hudson a 2-0 lead.
The start of the third set showed just how much the Lady Grizzlies (22-4) had unraveled. After a Lady Explorers' sideout on the first point, Holland rattled off seven straight service points to take an 8-0 lead.
Wadsworth called time-out, but the Lady Grizzlies never recovered. Hudson kept the pressure on, pushing the lead to as many at 14 points on several occasions
Match point came when Wadsworth was called for a net violation, setting off wild celebrations by the Lady Explorers and their fans, many of whom were wearing costumes.
Hudson setter Amanda Przybocki had 34 assists in the match.
Wadsworth was led by 11 kills from sophomore Jodi Johnson.
Ciborek said her team was pumped to play in the regional final.
"I think the girls just want this more than anybody right now," Ciborek said.