Tallmadge volleyball makes statement in marathon win over Louisville

Roger Gordon
Correspondent

The Tallmadge volleyball team’s game Sept. 1 at home against Louisville was a perfect example of Blue Devils head coach Jim Maloof purposely scheduling tough competition outside the Suburban League American Conference.

Tallmadge defeated the Leopards in a thriller 25-21, 14-25, 25-18, 22-25, 15-12. The Blue Devils improved to 4-1 on the season.

“There’s really nothing to gain in scheduling easy matches,” Maloof said. “It was set up that way to prepare us for the playoffs. It prepares you the best that it can.

“The Louisville match was obviously very competitive, tough from the beginning. Louisville has a very good team. They played their hearts out; we played our hearts out.”

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The win for the Blue Devils was sweet redemption after falling to Louisville last year 15-13 in the fifth set.

“They have the bulk of their team back from last year, including their best player,” said Maloof. “So I knew we were going to have to play pretty much at the top of our game, and we did that. I’m not going to say we played flawless. Nobody plays flawless. But we minimized our errors and did what we had to do. Players stepped up across the board.”

Leading the way for Tallmadge was junior setter Ellie Kirker, who had 40 assists, 24 digs, 14 service points and six aces. Senior libero Kelsie Horner had 24 digs, and senior outside hitter Emma Eyre notched 16 kills.

Sophomore Ella Bee had six aces, while sophomore middle hitter Kendall Kirkland and junior middle hitter Mia Hurst each hung up five blocks.

“Ella’s aces were very critical,” the coach said. “She stepped up when she had to. She hit her zones and hit them very effectively. Those serves were tough.

“Kendall was another sophomore who stepped up. Her blocks came at very critical times. She did what she needed to do. It was her best performance of the season.”

Tallmadge began the week Aug. 27 with a 25-18, 25-8, 25-15 rout of visiting Mantua Crestwood.

“We played well, and we pretty much were in control the whole time,” said Maloof.

Kirker had 23 assists, three aces and two blocks, while Horner contributed 10 digs and three aces.

“Ellie’s performance kind of speaks for itself,” Maloof said. “That’s consistent with the way she’s been playing. She’s been playing at a high level, she’s been playing at an outstanding performance level and obviously she’s doing a great job.

“Kelsie played very well. She’s doing exactly what she needs to do, and she’s playing her best volleyball.”

Eyre had 12 service points and nine kills, and Hurst had nine kills.

On Aug. 29 the Blue Devils beat Suburban League crossover rival North Royalton at home 25-12, 26-24, 22-25, 25-18.

“North Royalton was a strong, tough team,” said Maloof. “They have a lot of athleticism.”

Kirker had 45 assists, while Eyre contributed 16 service points and 14 kills.

“Emma played outstanding. There’s no other way to say it,” the coach said. “We leaned on her, and she led the way and took a lot of load on her back. It was just an exceptional performance.”

Horner had six aces, and Hurst had five blocks.

“Mia did a great job,” said Maloof. “Those blocks were huge because North Royalton was a big team. It was nice getting that block in front of them and slowing down that offense a little bit. She also did a great job up front hitting.”

According to Maloof, his team needs to continue to do what it has been doing.

“We’re working hard and trying to stay focused,” he said. “We’re trying to have some fun and keep the momentum going.”

The Blue Devils are set to continue conference action at home against Copley Sept. 8 at 6:30 p.m. and at Barberton Sept. 10 at 6:30 p.m