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The Stow-Munroe Falls boys volleyball team is starting to make its presence felt on the state volleyball scene.
Stow finished second in a strong field at the Polar Bear Bash at Massillon Jackson April 8, going 2-1 on the day.
Stow defeated Medina 25-12, 25-9 in its first match, followed by a 27-25, 25-14 win over Brunswick in the semifinal.
Stow then lost a tight 25-20, 25-21 loss to state-ranked Olentangy in the title match, but coach Matt Snyder was still very happy with his team's effort.
The Bulldogs then returned home April 11 and scored a win in straight sets over Medina 25-16, 25-17, 25-16.
Stow's record moved to 7-2 as of press time. Given the Bulldogs finished with a record of 6-17 last spring, Snyder has been very happy with his team's effort.
"The turnaround has been pretty big," Snyder said. "Our upperclassmen have returned after playing volleyball in the off-season, which is a big help."
"We've already won more games than last year, but 10 of our 17 losses last year were to top 10 teams in the state."
Speaking of the top 10, Stow has been flirting with the top 10 in the Ohio Boys Scholastic Volleyball Coaches Association poll. The Bulldogs dropped from 11th to 14th in the OBSVCA's Division I state poll April 10.
Snyder noted Olentangy jumped from 12th to 11th in the state poll following its win over Stow April 8, but that the Bulldogs could get another shot at the Braves down the road.
"It was really a great day for those guys," Snyder said. "I think they learned what we are capable of. We will likely see [Olentangy] later this season in a tournament [Spikes for Tykes May 3] down in Columbus
"If we make a few tweaks, we should be able to win that game," Snyder added. "It's a special group of guys. We have everything we need compete with the top-level teams."
Snyder noted the play of senior outsider hitter Hayden Baer has been a big reason for Stow's success.
Baer has a huge day at the Polar Bear Bash, putting up 11 aces, 21 digs and 31 kills, while putting down a kill ratio of 58 percent on his kill attempts. For his efforts, Baer was named MVP of the tournament.
Senior opposite hitter Justin Sibble also was was named to the all-tournament team, as he registered four aces, seven digs, three blocks and 12 kills during the tournament.
Junior setter Wes Grey had a smooth day running the offense, as he finished with 52 assists, while senior libero Jeremy Lundstrom finished with 17 digs and five aces.
Snyder noted serving has become a major weapon for the Bulldogs. So far this season, Stow has registered 111 aces, which Snyder said has allowed the Bulldogs to put a lot of pressure on the opposition.
On April 11, Snyder said he knew his team was facing a rebuilding Medina squad, so the Bulldogs tried to switch things up on offense.
"I gave some guys the liberty with the offense to work on things," Snyder said. "We're working on a lot of what they call back-row quicks. You'll see a lot of times in the men's game where they will run a lot of offense from the back row."
Sibble had a huge match on the service line, including a stretch where he put up six aces in a row. He finished with seven aces, 20 service points, two blocks and seven kills.
Baer was solid again, as he had three aces, four blocks and 14 kills.
"There were times when he was facing a triple block and still getting the ball down," Snyder said.
Gray finished the night with 26 assists.
Stow was set to host Kent Roosevelt April 13, but results were not available at press time.
Stow plays a pair of home matches this week, hosting Hudson April 18 and Jackson April 20. Varsity match both nights is set for 7 p.m.