Tallmadge volleyball pulls out wins in back-to-back marathon matches

Roger Gordon
Correspondent

Tallmadge head volleyball coach Jim Maloof is not the biggest fan of matches on back-to-back nights.

“Especially these marathon matches,” Maloof said,

Maloof referred to his team’s 25-18, 25-27, 25-17, 22-25, 15-6 victory Sept. 30 at Suburban League American Conference rival Copley. That followed the Blue Devils’ 20-25, 25-19, 25-18, 25-18 win Sept. 29 at home against conference rival Theodore Roosevelt on Senior Night.

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“The girls responded well. It was nice to see,” said Maloof. “The last time we had two matches in a row, the second one you could definitely tell we were a little unfocused and tired. I’m not saying we weren’t tired against Copley, but those girls worked their butts off and they got it done.

“Copley came to play, and they really worked hard. They didn’t really make many mistakes. Every point was a battle no matter what side of the net you were on. We controlled the fifth set, though.”

Tallmadge, which improved to 12-3 overall and 6-2 in the conference, was led by junior setter Ellie Kirker and sophomore outside hitter Ella Bee. Kirker had 47 assists, and Bee totaled 22 digs.

Sophomore defensive specialist Maya Dexter had 11 service points and three aces, while junior middle hitter Mia Hurst hung up 11 kills.

“Maya’s serves were huge,” Maloof said. “She’s been getting better behind that service line. Anytime you can have a server give you a little bit of an advantage, let alone get that many points, is a huge asset.

“Mia just keeps getting better. You can see it over the course of the season. She’s starting to hit that rhythm, get that groove. She’s putting the ball away. Her timing is there, she’s making good contact, she’s making good choices. She’s getting it done not only as a hitter but also as a blocker.”

Sophomore outside hitter Zoe Rensel had four blocks, while senior defensive specialist Kaela Skubic totaled three aces.

According to the coach, the win over Theodore Roosevelt was a typical American Conference slugfest.

“The American Conference is tough,” he said. “You actually look at our matches, and they’re all battles. Every one of the teams is tough.”

Senior libero Kelsie Horner had 28 digs, surpassing 1,000 for her career in the process. Senior outside hitter Emma Eyre numbered 20 kills and 15 service points.

“Kelsie got herself in position, and, man, does she make a lot of beautiful digs,” said Maloof. “I don’t know if it was Emma’s best match, but it was really close. She was hot on all fronts.”

Kirker had 44 assists, Hurst had five blocks and Dexter served up four aces.

Tallmadge began the week Sept. 26 with a 25-21, 25-18, 25-20 triumph at Uniontown Lake.

“Lake is loaded,” Maloof said. “They’re big, they’re athletic … we knew it was going to be a battle.”

Kirker had 35 assists, 14 service points and three aces, while Bee had 16 digs.

“Ellie is playing at a high level,” said the coach. “She did it at the serving line, she did it everywhere, and against a team like Lake.

“I don’t remember their exact heights on the roster, but I swear it seemed like Lake had three six-footers in the front row all the time. We’re not particularly close to them in height, so Ellie had to do a good job spreading that ball around. We had to run a fast offense to try and give ourselves a chance to be successful offensively, and she’s the one running the offense. And she did it.

“Ella got herself in the right place to make digs and at least give us that defensive presence.”

Horner had 16 digs, Eyre had a dozen kills and Hurst and sophomore middle hitter Kendall Kirkland each contributed five blocks.

Tallmadge is scheduled to host American Conference rival Barberton Oct. 6 at 6:30 p.m. The Blue Devils are scheduled to travel to conference foe Highland Oct. 8 at 6:30 p.m. They are set to host Suburban League crossover rival Brecksville-Broadview Heights Oct. 10 at 11 a.m.