For Stow's Snyder family, volleyball starts at the beach

Michael Leonard
Kent Weeklies
Stow's Maddox Snyder hits a jump serve during the Bulldogs' 25-12, 25-9, 25-10 win over Firestone Thursday at home. [Photo courtesy of Timothy Howard]

STOW — This week's wintry blast reminded Northeast Ohioans that spring is a fickle thing. It probably caused many to dream of warm, sandy beaches.

For Stow boys volleyball coach Matt Snyder, the beach isn't all fun and games.

Well, maybe it is fun and games, but the beach does include some serious work for Snyder.

The longtime Bulldogs coach said about half of his current players started their careers playing beach volleyball.

"It's a different skill set when you're playing outdoors," Snyder said. "You're only playing with two people, so you have to learn every position. This is how we make sure that our setters can hit and our middles can pass."

"Outdoors is a slower game, When you come inside, the game speeds up a lot, but you only need to use a few skills."

Snyder said beach volleyball youth clubs at Legend Lanes in Cuyahoga Falls and Sandbox Volleyball Club in Broadview Heights have been vital to his program's development. 

Two of Snyder's best pupils from the beach happen to be his twin sons Mason and Maddox Snyder.

Before the pandemic hit, the Snyder twins competed at the national level for USA Beach Volleyball. In fact, the twins won a 12U na­tional ti­tle at the USA Na­tional Beach Tour Ju­nior Beach Na­tional Cham­pi­onship in 2018.

Now freshmen at Stow, the Snyder twins have transitioned to play for their father on the hard court. Mason is Stow's starting setter and Maddox is an outside hitter.

"I've been wanting to play for him for years," Mason said. "He's been coaching Stow for a long time and we've seen a lot of time with the program."

If given a choice for another beach volleyball national title or a state title with Stow, Maddox left no doubt what he felt was more important.

"A state championship. There's a lot more people who know about this sport," Maddox said. "It would be great to bring it home."

So what's the biggest difference between playing on sand and the hard floor at James G. Tyree Gymnasium?

"Diving definitely hurts more," Mason said. "You've got six guys out there instead of two, so you have to play your role. I'm able to keep my hands a lot cleaner, because they call a lot of double hits in beach volleyball."

Stow setter Mason Snyder hits the ball during the Bulldogs' home win over Firestone on Thursday. [Photo courtesy of Timothy Howard]

Volleyball is a family affair for the Snyders.

Not only does Matt coach his sons, but stepmother Sara Snyder is an assistant coach with the Bulldogs. Sara Snyder also completed her first season as Stow girls volleyball coach last fall.

Matt Snyder said there were obstacles to getting his sons back to nationals in 2020 — and not all related to the pandemic.

"Part of that was COVID, but part of it was that you've got two teenage boys who work together and the testosterone hit," Matt said. "There was a lot of friction between the two of them and they decided to choose different partners."

Is there a chance this sibling rivalry can be overcome before beach season?

"I hope so," Matt said. "I'm going to let them work it out. They belong together."

Coach Snyder also said he would like to start a beach club to play at Kent Lanes this summer as an opportunity to expose more players to volleyball.

"When you're out there on the sand, having fun and knocking the ball around, you learn to love it," Matt said. "That's how we're growing the sport."

That growth includes the arrival of Firestone's first boys volleyball team this spring.  Under the guidance of coach Stacey McMillan-Myers, the Falcons have already scored two victories this season.

Both McMillan-Myers and Matt Snyder see big things in the future for Firestone.

"There's been tremendous progress," McMillian-Myers said. "We have a really young team this year — mostly freshmen and sophomores — and none of them have played before. It's a long process. I'm looking forward to where we can be in the next few years."

"I've been wanting to offer this opportunity to play to Firestone and Akron Public Schools for years. It's so wonderful to see it happen."

"It's a young program," Matt Snyder said. "They've got some talented kids who play for our club teams that will be coming up in the next few years. Stacey does a great job with them."

Firestone's Ryan Oderkirk serves the ball during the Falcons' straight sets loss at Stow on Thursday. Firestone is playing its first season of boys volleyball this spring. [Photo courtesy of Timothy Howard]

Firestone took on Stow Thursday at Tyree Gymnasium. The Falcons had their moments, but Firestone looked like a first-year program, losing to the veteran Bulldogs in straight sets 25-12, 25-9, 25-10.

Mason Snyder was all over the court for Stow, and seniors Jackson Bauer, Paden Tawney and Spencer Chritclow led a determined attack at the net.

Not bad for a team that's half full of would-be beach bums.

"I think the beach is a great way to start in the spot," Matt Snyder said. "Once kids start there, they tend to stick with it."