Attack, attack, attack.
That is what first-year Tallmadge head volleyball coach Jim Maloof wants from his Blue Devils in 2019.
"We’re working on becoming an aggressive team that attacks," said Maloof, who was the head coach at Strasburg the last two years and Akron Manchester for four years before that. "Instead of having more of a traditional, high-set attack offense, we’ve been working on a quick-attack offense, which is designed to give us a little bit of an advantage, especially against taller teams and even teams our own size. It’s designed to give you better matchups.
"I expect it to be a competitive team, an exciting team and a team that has a lot of grit, hustle and work ethic. It’s just a great group of kids that love to play the game."
Last year, Tallmadge finished 19-6 overall and 10-2 in the Suburban League American Conference. Revere won the conference record with a 12-0 record. The Blue Devils lost to the Minutemen in the district finals, their third defeat to them in 2018. Tallmadge’s lone senior lost to graduation was middle hitter Alex Perrin.
"My goal is to exceed where we were last year," Maloof said.
Two seniors who will be key contributors to the Blue Devils’ fortunes will be outside hitters Jill Catalano and Sydney Kirker.
"Jill is just a strong athlete," Maloof said. "She does a great job, adapts well and sees the court well. Whatever the challenge is, she seems to be able to step up to that challenge, meet the challenge and go beyond it.
"With respect to hitting, Jill brings the power when she needs to, but she can also hit the spots. When she gets to the back row, she does a great job of running down balls and keeping things up in the air, giving the team a chance to extend the rally and finishing the rally on the offensive end.
"Sydney is going to hit every position across the front row. She does a great job on the outside and is very quick in the middle. She’s just a very versatile hitter who can hit from every spot across the net successfully."
The other two seniors, setter/outside-opposite hitter Amelia Perdue and middle-outside hitter/setter Katie Seeker, also will play huge roles this season.
"As a setter, Amelia is very quick and has great defensive skills," Maloof said. "She does a good job reading the defense and running the offense whether we want to go with a fast-paced attack or we need to slow it down and run something a little more conservative.
"Amelia mixes the balls up well, changes the flow well whether she wants to put the ball to the outside, opposite, in the middle or even the back row. She’s very scrappy and makes good, quality passes.
"Katie is very smart and a very strong hitter. When it comes to hitting the quick balls, she does a very good job seeing the court and getting a good snap on that ball. She’s very effective in hitting across the net. It doesn’t matter which position you put her in. She does a great job of finding those holes in the court and does a great job blocking at the net."
The four juniors are middle hitter Maddie Arnold, outside hitter Emma Eyre, libero Kelsie Horner and defensive specialist Kaela Skubic. All four players will see a lot of action.
"Maddie does a good job of running the quick attacks and does a good job out of the middle and hitting the angles, getting past the middle blocker," Maloof said. "She has a nice block as well.
"Emma is just a hitter. She has an uncanny ability to be able to see the court and find a hole to put that ball in whether she’s using power or placing. If it’s a broken play, sometimes you get that set to her and she does things with it and you’re just like, ‘Wow!’
"Kelsie has a great platform. She does a great job of making nice, soft passes and she runs down a lot of balls. She covers a lot of ground. She also gets her hands on a lot of balls on serve receives.
"Kaela does a great job when she gets to the ball of making nice, soft passes to targets. She can take a really nice hit, set her platform, absorb the impact and put that ball on target, giving us a nice playable pass."
Sophomore setter Ellie Kirker, Sydney’s sister, will play a key role, as well.
"Ellie is just a great athlete," Maloof said. "She does a great job at the net, a great job setting in the front row. The ball comes over to our side of the net, and she gets her hands on it, changes the flow and gives us nice isolations for the hitters. She mixes that ball up really well and basically puts the hitters in a good position to succeed and get those kills."
Team captains will be Catalano, Sydney Kirker, Perdue and Seeker. Maloof’s assistant coaches will be Karly Helmuth and Mark Helmuth.
Maloof believes his Blue Devils can challenge Revere for the American Conference title.
"We have to do our homework and work hard, though," he said. "If we execute and are able to execute the fast offense, I believe we can beat Revere. It’s going to take some work."
Tallmadge is scheduled to open its season at home against National Conference crossover rival Stow-Munroe Falls Aug. 22 at 6:30 p.m.