Lizzy McDade is a Bulldog.
The 2011 graduate of Stow-Munroe Falls played volleyball at Stow and rejoined the program as part of of the coaching staff after graduating from Kent State University in 2015. She also teaches math at the high school.
With Miguel Ramirez deciding not to return to coaching this season to spend more time with his family, McDade will get her first head coaching job this fall at her alma mater.
McDade’s promotion to head coach is part of a trend in the Suburban League National Conference, which saw four of its eight head coaches switch this fall.
"I can't speak for what's going on at the other schools," McDade said. "There have clearly been some really good coaches and teams in the Suburban League. Miguel wanted to focus on his family. I’ve been a part of the program for a long time."
McDade inherits a veteran team this fall which went 15-9 last season, including 9-5 in the National Conference, which was good for third place. The Bulldogs reached the Division I district semifinals.
McDade notes Stow has been solid in recent years, but hasn’t been able to get past the elite level programs. To overcome that, she plans to help promote the sports at the younger levels.
"I think we need to do a better job with our youth program," McDade said. "If you can't play CYO, you often don’t play volleyball until the sixth grade. Coach Pam (Fair) and I are looking how we can grow our youth program in the elementary schools.
Stow did lose a talented senior class, including hitter Julia DiPaola, libero Alyssa Tallarico, hitter Jacy Guider, Jill Tagiachi and Sydney Sternhem.
Despite these losses, McDade is happy with what she has seen from her players. The Bulldogs will operate from multiple formations this year, based on their opposition’s play.
"We are going to do whatever we need to do to match up," McDade said. "If that means one night we run a 5-1 and the next we run a 6-2, that’s fine. We have a lot of very talented hitters this year."
Without knowing too much in terms of specifics for the National Conference squads, McDade expects the conference to be as tough as ever.
"I really don’t know anything other than its always been tough," McDade said. "We're going to have to be playing our ‘A’ game every night in the league."
McDade’s staff includes varsity assistant coach Tim Vasko and junior varsity coach Krissy Sokol, each of whom coached at Archbishop Hoban. Fair returns as freshman coach.
While McDade wants to put a heavy emphasis on team play for the Bulldogs, she acknowledges there will be plenty of attention on senior outside hitter Lizzy Stefanov. A four-year stater for Stow, Stefanov committed last fall to continue her career at Tulane University in New Orleans.
"I've been working with her all four years," McDade said. "We, as a program, have really enjoyed her growth. It’s just been a pleasure to be part of her high school career."
Stow has another four-year starter in senior setter Lauren Fair, who will serve as the Bulldogs’ primary setter. When running a 6-2 formation, senior setter Taylor Shark will enter the fray, as McDade notes Shark has "shown incrdibel maturity" in dealing with the Bulldogs’ new system.
Another four-year varsity player is senior Claire O'Verko, who will switch from defensive specialist to libero this fall.
"She's just going to see more court time this year because she’s in the libero jersey," McDade said.
Rounding out the seniors is Brook Britton who will seet time at middle and right-side hitter
Stow’s large junior class got even bigger recently with the arrival of two transfer students.
Returning juniors for the Bulldogs include middle hitter Sam Croyle, defensive specialist Sara Day, defensive specialist Ellie Petit, middle hitter Kira Philpot, middle/right side hitter Molly Richards, outside hitter Ryleigh Schelein and defensive specialist Hannah Seckinger.
Joining the Bulldogs this fall will be junior outside hitter Molly Haas, who returned to Stow from Walsh Jesuit and middle/right side hitter Ashli Holden, who moved into the district from Brunswick.
"We did the same tryout with those two that we did with all the girls," McDade said. "The girls have been incredibly welcoming. It’s been great to see."
Stow was set to open the season Saturday at home at 3:30 p.m. vs. Elyria. The Bulldogs travel to Solon Tuesday at 7 p.m. before hosting Tallmadge Thursday at 7 p.m.
"We just want all the girls to feel like they got the most out of the season," McDade said.
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, firstname.lastname@example.org or @MLeonard_RPC