TALLMADGE — There are few people who bleed maroon and gold more than Liz McDade.
However, McDade is going through a disturbing identity crisis.
"Our serve receive looks nothing like it does in practice," the Stow-Munroe Falls head girls volleyball coach said.
As a result, the Bulldogs find themselves with a glaring 0-2 record after reaching a district title match last fall.
Stow was handily defeated by host Tallmadge 25-12, 25-13, 25-19 in a Suburban League crossover showdown at James O. Maddox Court.
In their defense, the Bulldogs entered the 2019 season without some serious talent. Stow lost four gifted starters from a year ago.
Nevertheless, McDade was a bit perplexed by her team’s inability to return the Blue Devils’ serve. She isn’t panicking, though.
"When you lose four seniors that are a huge part of your lineup, it’s going to take some trial and error, especially when you have versatile hitters like we do," McDade said.
The Blue Devils had some versatile hitters in their lineup too. And plenty of them.
Tallmadge blasted its way out of the gates to insurmountable leads in the first two sets. The Bulldogs eventually found their footing to a certain degree in the third set, but the Blue Devils, who got contributions from just about everyone, had the final say.
"They said, ‘We had more fun in the third set,’" McDade said. "We’re definitely improving. That doesn’t take anything away from Tallmadge. They played incredibly well.
"They served really tough and their offense … they were in system most of the time. They were able to run all kinds of different sets. They really spread the ball around."
Ellie Kirker led Tallmadge with 16 service points and teammate Katie Seeker had five kills and three blocks.
Sydney Kirker contributed six kills and Amelia Perdue finished with 14 assists for the Blue Devils. Kelsie Horner added 10 digs for Tallmadge.
Kira Philpot had six kills and two blocks for Stow (0-2). Ryleigh Schelien added five kills and Sara Day and Molly Richards each had two aces for the Bulldogs. Samantha Croyle contributed three digs and two blocks for Stow.
McDade, a libero on the Bulldogs’ 2009 state final four team, knows a thing or two about overcoming destiny. That same 2009 squad had a losing record heading into the postseason.
"I can see the pieces," McDade said. "I can see the really good things that are happening. We just haven’t found the way to put the puzzle together. We just haven’t found the best way for them to work together yet.
"It’s only the second match. We don’t really have a set lineup yet. I feel like we’re close. When you have so many versatile hitters, it opens up the possibilities and the options in terms of creating a lineup."
McDade believes it is her responsibility to get the ship sailing again on Graham Road. She also knows it’s a long season.
As McDade and the rest of her team of sleeping giants proved 10 years ago, the road to glory takes place in October, not August.
"I’m obviously doing a disservice if I don’t evaluate us and all of those options, which we’re trying to do in practice, but it’s not translating just yet," McDade said. "We’ll figure it out. We’re fortunate enough in our sport that everybody makes playoffs.
"All we have to do is try to figure it out by October. Obviously, I’m not hoping it takes that long, but essentially, if we hit our stride by October, we’re doing it right."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.