by Roger Gordon
Tallmadge head volleyball coach Adam Hamad knew his girls were not focused after they dropped the opening set in their season opener against Massillon Perry Aug. 25 on the road.
"They had a lot going on outside of volleyball and I think that kind of got to them early on," he said. "You could just tell that something was on their minds. I told them, 'If we do what we're supposed to do, we should win. We need to refocus.' They definitely saw that our first set was not the best that we could play."
From that point on, it was a different story.
"The girls were focused and had the attitude of 'We know what we're doing,'" Hamad said. "'We know we're a better team than they are. We need to buckle down and do what we know how to do.'
"My captains, Brittney Harris and Jessica Herman, really stepped up, really took control of the court. Everybody started executing better. We also began playing much better defense."
The Lady Blue Devils went on to win 19-25, 25-15, 25-20, 25-11.
Herman, a senior outside hitter, had a stellar match, according to Hamad.
"We run a real uptempo offense with Jessica, including a lot of plays in which the setter just pushes the ball out to the hitters as quick as possible," he said.
Senior middle blocker Jamie McGhee had quite a match, too.
"Jamie had a lot of touches and quite a few over-passes," Hamad said. "Most importantly, though, is how she contributes when she doesn't get the ball. She drew blockers a lot, she got the attention of the middles to follow her.
"This way, we can push the ball to the outside. That really opens it up for our other players."
Senior defensive specialist Olivia Ayres and freshman setter Amelia Perdue also were significant contributors.
"Olivia did a great job," Hamad said. "She actually stepped in and played libero for us. She also played well on service.
"She had great passes, too. It's hard to mess up when you have a good passer like her.
"Ameilia has the great ability to always be poised. No matter what the score is, she always keeps a nice rhythm and tempo.
"After the first set, she didn't blink her eyes. She just went into the second set and did her thing.
"Even when we were down in the second set, she came right back and made sure our hitters had the confidence to go up and swing.
"She also made sure she had her right hand up there at the right time."
Tallmadge was scheduled to visit Kent Roosevelt in its Suburban League American Conference debut Sept. 1. Results were not available at press time.
The Lady Blue Devils are set to host American Conference rival Copley Sept. 6 before heading to Barberton for an American Conference showdown Sept. 8. Both matches are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.
Tallmadge is set to compete at the Hilltopper Classic Sept. 10 at Chardon High School. Play is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m.