Tallmadge volleyball opens season by splitting pair of matches

Roger Gordon

The Tallmadge volleyball team nearly began the season by winning its first two matches.

On Aug. 22 the Blue Devils easily beat Suburban League crossover rival Stow-Munroe Falls on the road 25-16, 25-20, 25-11.

Then, on Aug. 25 they lost a tough one at home against Akron Coventry 16-25, 27-25, 27-25, 25-11.

“The match against Stow went pretty darn smoothly,” head coach Jim Maloof said. “We have a young, inexperienced team, but we executed well, things clicked and it was a good day.”

Leading the way against the Bulldogs was junior setter Ellie Kirker. She had 26 assists, 14 service points and four aces.

“Ellie did an excellent job,” said Maloof. “She has a high volleyball IQ. She just goes out there and runs the offense. She’s playing at a really high level, making really good choices and executing well across the board.”

Senior libero Kelsie Horner had 11 digs, while senior outside hitter Emma Eyre hung up 10 kills.

“Kelsie did a great job in the back row,” Maloof said, “but she also did a great job passing and serve receiving to set up a lot of stuff on the offensive end.

“Emma was hitting fantastic. She was just putting the ball away. Whatever was coming her way, she was very effective.”

Sophomore middle hitter Kendall Kirkland contributed two blocks.

Maloof and his squad were well aware of Coventry’s great talent heading into that match.

“Obviously, Coventry basically has its whole team back from last year. We knew they were going to be strong,” he said. “They came back after that first set and were playing well. We went out there and were executing relatively well.

“Some of the youth and inexperience and maturity that have to happen for us … you catch a team like Coventry at the beginning of the year, it’s a tough one. We hung in there really tough, though. It was a hard loss for a younger team like us.

“In the fourth set we just weren’t able to bounce back and just had a tough time. The thing I told the girls after the match was, ‘You learn something out of this.’ At the end of the day, I want them to be able to learn how to close out sets like sets three and four, especially against a tough team like Coventry.

“It was nice to see them take the first set, hang as close as they did in those next two sets with an opportunity to win both sets. A couple small plays here or there, and those two sets go a completely different direction and obviously it changes the complete outcome of the match.

“You always want to win every single match, but to see the girls come out and play as well as they did and hang as tough as they did, given the experience level they have … it was nice to see them perform that way even though we didn’t get the win.

"I told them, ‘Here’s where you’re at. You guys are young, you’re inexperienced, you’re going to grow, you’re going to mature. And you’re playing against a tough team. Tonight was tough, but let’s learn from it and let’s grow so that next time we’re in this situation, we do a little bit better and close out those close sets, and then the outcome of the match is going to be different.’”

Kirker led the way with 34 assists, 16 service points and four aces. Horner had 29 digs, while Eyre produced 22 kills. Junior middle hitter Mia Hurst contributed three blocks.