FAIRBORN: The Hudson volleyball team had lost one set this postseason before running into six-time state champion Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame in a Division I state semifinal on Thursday.
Two sets into the match, and the Explorers were facing a quick exit.
“I think nerves kind of got the best of us a little bit the first two games,” Hudson coach Jessica Ciborek said.
Hudson rallied to win the third set and found itself tied with Mount Notre Dame in the fourth before the Cougars pulled away late to complete a 3-1 victory at Wright State University’s Nutter Center.
Mount Notre Dame (25-3) plays top-ranked Toledo St. Ursula (29-0) for the Division I state title at 11 a.m. Saturday.
“I think they just caught us off guard in the first game because normally that’s us that comes out with all the fire and the passion,” Hudson senior outside hitter Celia Cristofoli said. “I feel like they kind of sucked our energy away but in the third game we had it. If we could’ve started off that way, it would’ve been a whole different game.”
Cristofoli led the Explorers with 10 digs and also added 12 kills. Junior middle blocker Jordan Mackay finished with 14 kills and senior middle blocker Krissy Mummy had nine kills and two blocks for Hudson (21-7).
Mount Notre Dame, ranked No. 3 in the statewide coaches’ poll, was led by senior right side hitter Christine Chandler, who finished with 15 kills, five digs and four blocks. Sophomore middle blocker Dani Szczepanski added nine kills and six blocks.
“We thought that they were going to be a very good team,” Mount Notre Dame coach Joe Burke said. “They played very well. They’re obviously very well-coached and once you make it to the state final four, you’re going to be a good team. We were not surprised that they came out with fight. That’s a credit to them after the first two sets went fairly quickly. To show that fight and to come out and win that third set, they came out and made a lot of plays and they kind of put us on our heels.”
The fourth set was tied at 7-7 when Mount Notre Dame scored six consecutive points, prompting Hudson to call a timeout. The Explorers got to within four, but the Cougars outscored them 10-2 down the stretch.
“One of our goals for the postseason is to not let teams get on runs of more than four points because that just takes away momentum,” said Mummy, a College of Charleston commit. “I think that’s kind of what happened in that fourth set. We just had a couple rotations where we let them get on runs, and that just can’t happen this far in the tournament and against that great of a team. They’re going to take advantage of us making mistakes.”
Hudson was making its first appearance in the state final four. Of the four participants, Hudson was the only school not ranked in the state coaches’ poll.
“I’m really proud of the girls and happy we made it this far,” Ciborek said.
The turning point of the season was a loss against Rocky River Magnificat, players said. After that, they won 10 consecutive matches to reach the state semifinals.
“We’re a team. We all click,” Cristofoli said. “I love playing next to the girls that play next to me. I think we move as one and we’re just a great team. The chemistry was all there, and the chemistry is what took us this far.”
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