Tallmadge volleyball reaches Division II district final

Roger Gordon
Correspondent
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Up two sets to none, the Tallmadge volleyball team, seeded fourth, lost the third set and trailed sixth-seeded Rocky River by four points late in set number four Oct. 28 in a Northeast 4 Division II district semifinal at James O. Maddox Court.

“We just had to buckle down,” Blue Devils head coach Jim Maloof said. “The girls did what they needed to do at the end to walk away with the win. Anytime you can walk away with a win at this point in the tournament, you have to be happy. It was definitely a competitive match, but you kind of expect that at this point in the tournament.”

Tallmadge won 25-17, 25-21, 18-25, 25-23, improving to 15-7 on the season.

“After we won the first two sets, I think we let off the gas pedal a little bit, started making some unforced errors,” said Maloof. “Then, in the fourth set, we struggled to consistently fire on all cylinders. Rocky River was playing really well, and they made it very tough on us.”

Tallmadge advanced to the district finals at home against fifth-seeded Cleveland Heights Beaumont Oct. 31. The Blue Devils will try to erase the memory of last year’s five-set loss to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary at the same stage of the tournament.

Leading the way for Tallmadge in the win over Rocky River was junior setter Ellie Kirker, who had 27 assists, 16 service points and four aces.

“Ellie is looking pretty good right now. She’s pretty close to being 100 percent healthy again. She was huge,” Maloof said. “She did a great job distributing that ball, and behind the service line those were some critical points, and she got them at critical times. Obviously, those aces were helpful. We made some nice runs to help change the momentum with her play.”

Sophomore outside hitter Ella Bee had 18 digs, while senior outside hitter Emma Eyre hung up 16 kills.

“Emma really led the hitting. She did a great job,” said the coach. “She moved the ball around well. She got kills at critical times, especially towards the end of that fourth set. When she needed to get the kills, she got the kills.”

Junior middle hitter Mia Hurst contributed three blocks.

The Blue Devils began the week Oct. 22 by defeating 10th-seeded Garfield Heights Trinity, again at home, 28-26, 25-18, 25-12 in a sectional final.

“That first set was relatively tight,” Maloof said. “It was really Ellie’s first match back after the injury. We’d been sitting out for a week, so even though you’re practicing, you still have to get back to game speed. So that first set we were just kind of getting everything back together, trying to gel. Once we got everything clicking again, we took the next two sets without too much difficulty.”

Kirker had 28 assists and two aces, Bee had 11 kills, 10 service points and a pair of aces and Eyre totaled 18 digs.

“Ella did a great job, and it was all the way around,” said Maloof. “She did it behind the service line and she did it hitting. She was placing the ball really well, seeing the court really well.”

Hurst had five blocks and senior libero Kelsie Horner had two aces.

“Mia just keeps getting better at that net,” Maloof said. “She’s leading the way at the net from the blocking standpoint. It changes the way the other team hits.”

According to the coach, his team defeated two good, solid opponents.

“The way the girls stepped up in both matches and delivered when they needed to deliver gave them some confidence,” he said.

If Tallmadge defeats Beaumont, it would advance to a Region 5 semifinal against the winner of third-seeded Akron Coventry and 20th-seeded Akron Archbishop Hoban Nov. 5 at Stow-Munroe Falls