Stow-Munroe Falls volleyball coach Miguel Ramirez was happy with what he saw from his team in the first half of the season.
However, he knew dealing with state-ranked Brecksville-Broadview Heights represented the biggest challenge of the season.
The Bulldogs had good moments and bad ones against the Bees Sept. 15 at James G. Tyree Gymnasium, but Brecksville had too much firepower and won 25-13, 25-14, 26-24 Sept. 15.
On Sept. 20 at North Royalton, the Bears avenged a five-set loss to the Stow in August, scoring a 26-24, 25-22, 25-18 win.
Stow dropped to 9-5, 5-3 in Suburban League National Conference as of press time.
Ramirez said the Bees were as good as advertised.
"It's one of their best teams ever," Ramireze said. "We expected a tough match and our first real test against one of the top teams in the state. We competed and at the end of the day, that's one thing we can be happy about."
Ramirez said the play of setter Shannon Williams was key to the Bees, as Williams had 49 assists in the match.
"What makes Brecksville tough is they keep so many balls in play," Ramirez said. "She's so athletic, she can turn a bad pass into a great set."
"We knew they were going to score in bunches," Ramirez said. "The strategy was to worry about ourselves and not worry about them. Our goal was not to get intimidated by them."
Ramirez said the Bulldogs were a bit intimidated in the first two sets before playing better in the third.
"We kind of ran out of gas at the end," Ramirez said.
Outside hitter Julia DiPaola led the Bulldogs with 11 kills and 15 digs.
Stow got 15 assists from Lauren Fair and nine from Jacy Guider in the loss. Libero Alyssa Tallarico had 15 digs.
Joanna Chan led Brecksville with 15 digs.
Ramirez' explanation for the result of the North Royalton match was simple.
"They just played better than us," Ramirez said. "They made less mistakes than we did and took advantage of the ones we made. They might be having a down year, but they have a lot of talent. We didn't make enough plays."
Stow was set to travel to Wadsworth Sept. 22, but results were not available at press time.
Ramirez said he believed his squad could avenge a five-set loss to the Grizzlies from earlier this season.
"The Suburban League is incredibly competitive right now," Ramirez said. "Anything is possible."
Stow will play a pair of National Conference games this week. The Bulldogs will travel to Nordonia Sept. 27 before hosting Twinsburg Sept. 28. Varsity matches both night will begin at 7 p.m.