by Michael Leonard
Hudson -- The Stow-Munroe Falls and Hudson volleyball teams have produced plenty of great matches over the years.
The contest between the two rivals Sept. 8 at Ray "Buck" Hyser Gymnasium could be called an instant classic.
The Lady Explorers rallied from a set down twice and had match point, but the Lady Bulldogs came back to pull out a 26-24, 21-25, 25-16, 23-25, 16-14 win.
Stow improved to 6-1 overall and 4-1 in the Suburban League National Conference, while Hudson fell to 1-3 overall and in the conference.
It was yet another five-set affair for the Lady Bulldogs, who have played five sets in all of their conference matches this season.
"That was a well-played game on both sides," Stow head coach Miguel Ramirez said.
Despite the loss, Lady Explorers' first-year head coach Brad Disandis was happy with his team's effort. Disandis said he expected a thriller in his first match as head coach against Stow.
"It expected it," Disandis said. "I have a lot of respect for Miguel as he's done a great job with the program. I respect this game because it has a lot of history to it."
Set one gave an idea of what was to come as momentum swayed back and forth.
Lady Bulldog hitters Lizzy Stefanov and Julia DiPaola attacked the Hudson net, but Lady Explorer hitters Alena Madar and Danielle Turner answered in kind.
Stow looked to have the set in hand with a 24-21 lead only to see Hudson rally to tie it at 24.
However, a Lady Bulldog kill was followed by a good serve by Stefanov to end the first set.
Stefanov led Stow with 13 kills, while DiPaola had 20 digs.
Set two was another back-and-forth affair as the set was tied 11 times.
However, Hudson was able to get some kills down late in the set and Turner put a kill down on set point, tying the match at 1-1.
Set three started out as another tight one, but the Lady Bulldogs were able to break it open, thanks to eight straight service points from sophomore Claire O'Verko.
After getting the serve with Stow leading 17-16, O'Verko had the Lady Explorers running all over the court, allowing six different Lady Bulldogs to get kills in the third set.
Stefanov hit a stuff block on set point to make it 2-1 Stow.
Early on, it looked like Hudson was going to run away with the fourth set. Good serving from libero Kendall Mackay helped the Lady Explorers to a 19-11 lead.
However, Stow chipped away at the lead until a block from DiPaola cut the deficit to 24-23.
Turner then came through again for Hudson as the junior put down a kill, sending the match to a fifth set.
There was plenty of drama in the fifth set as well.
The Lady Explorers took an early 5-2 lead, only to have Stow rally to take the lead at 9-6. Hudson then rallied to lead 13-11, before a DiPaola kill tied it at 13.
The Lady Explorers then got match point at 14-13 off a kill by Madar, but Hudson did not return the ball. Stefanov followed with a kill to make it 15-14 Stow.
On match point, Madar put her kill attempt out of bounds, giving the Lady Bulldogs the set at 16-14 and the match.
"We came up a little bit short," Disandis said. "We made a couple of mistakes at the end that hurt us. When you play that close, the ball can bounce in funny ways."
Hudson was set to host a quad match Sept. 10, but results were not available at press time.
The Lady Explorers are scheduled to host National Conference rival Twinsburg Sept. 13. They are set to visit National Conference foe Wadsworth Sept. 15. Both matches are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.
Hudson is set to host Avon Sept. 17 at 1 p.m.