Tallmadge volleyball wins district title in five-set win over Beaumont

Roger Gordon
Correspondent

The Tallmadge volleyball team claimed its first district championship in eight years with a thrilling victory Oct. 31 over Cleveland Heights Beaumont at James O. Maddox Court.

The fourth-seeded Blue Devils defeated the fifth-seeded Blue Streaks 19-25, 25-22, 25-15, 22-25, 15-11 in the Northeast 4 Division II district final.

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Tallmadge, which improved to 16-7 on the season, was scheduled to oppose third-seeded Akron Coventry in a Region 5 semifinal at Stow-Munroe Falls Nov. 5 at 8 p.m.

“We knew Beaumont was going to be tough coming in. They beat some good teams this season,” Tallmadge head coach Jim Maloof said. “We just prepared as best we could. They’re very athletic and had a size advantage on us.

“They came in, and you could just tell they fully expected to win, and they came out on fire. As we kind of picked up on some of their trends – what they like doing and that kind of stuff – in the first set, we figured out what they were doing and what we needed to do. So we made some adjustments, kind of took away some of the things they wanted to do, and we started to go after some of their weaknesses.

“By the time the second set came around, we started changing the momentum and pulled out that set. In the third set we did pretty well. Then, in the fourth set, we struggled a little bit. Beaumont made a nice comeback and played really hard. Going into the fifth set we just closed it out, never trailed. We said, ‘Hey, we’re going to finish this off.’ We played aggressive, we played confident and we played to our strengths and took away Beaumont’s best options.”

Leading the way for Tallmadge were seniors Emma Eyre and Kelsie Horner. Eyre, an outside hitter, had 24 kills and 16 service points, while Horner, the libero, totaled 23 digs and two aces.

“It was just plain and simple an outstanding performance by Emma,” said Maloof. “She played phenomenally. That probably was her best match of the season. She just did a great job. It was very impressive.

“Kelsie played very well. She had a lot of critical digs. She had a nice service run when we needed it, too. I think at least one of her aces came during that run when we were changing the momentum. She did what she needed to do. It made a difference.

“Those were two seniors who just stepped up and showed leadership.”

Junior setter Ellie Kirker had 40 assists and a pair of aces.

“Ellie runs that offense, there’s no two ways about it,” Maloof said. “In order for us to be successful, it comes down to her effectively and efficiently running that offense, and that’s exactly what she did. She put our hitters in positions to succeed, and our hitters took advantage of it, and they succeeded.”

With four blocks apiece were middle hitters Mia Hurst, a junior, and Kendall Kirkland, a sophomore.

“That Beaumont team can hammer the ball, they have some athletes over there,” said the coach. “But Kendall and Mia got in their way. We knew what Beaumont wanted to do, so we had to take away their best options, and Mia and Kendall did a great job of making their hitters change what they wanted to do.”

Maloof believes his team has a good chance to beat Coventry, a team that has not lost a single set in its postseason run.

“Coventry has a tough team and a very good record, but we’re peaking and we’re playing strong,” he said. “It’s expected to be a competitive match, and we’re going to do our best. We lost to them earlier this season in four sets. They’ve had a nice run, so we need to go out and put the brakes on their hot streak, and that’s going to come down to us coming out and executing. We’re going to have to play well.”

With a win over Coventry, next up for Tallmadge would be the winner of Mentor Lake Catholic and Chardon Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin in the Region 5 championship match at Stow-Munroe Falls Nov. 7 at 2 p.m.