STOW: Tallmadge volleyball’s longest run through the state tournament since 2006 ended Thursday night when the Blue Devils lost 3-1 to Canfield in a Division II regional semifinal at Stow High School.
Tallmadge (13-14) won the first set 25-22 and opened up a commanding 20-10 lead in the second set, looking to put the match away quickly. The Cardinals then found a rhythm, stormed back to steal the set 25-21 and took the final two sets 25-18 and 25-14.
After such a hot start, Tallmadge coach Geoffrey Wagner said Canfield’s experience wouldn’t allow the Cardinals to stay down for long.
“I think probably ball control and their experience of having been here,” Wagner said caused the momentum shift. “They didn’t let the fact that we literally had them down 10 points affect them. And once they started, they had some servers that went on runs. That was it, that was the big turning point. After that, we couldn’t get right, really, from that point on.”
Canfield (23-3) senior Sabrina Mangapora’s power was too much on the outside, and sophomore twins Janie and Rachel Rafoth turned away countless spikes that could have been points.
Tallmadge was led by senior Meryl Wiebrecht, who had 10 kills, and senior Emma Mathieson, who had a team-high 11 kills. Wiebrecht was especially effective early in the match. Junior Karly Helmuth finished with 26 assists and senior Demi DeLorenzo had another strong performance with 27 digs and three aces, all in the first set. Senior Christa Wilk finished with three blocks.
After the match, the Blue Devils were still in high spirits, well aware of the positive run that had been made.
“The eight seniors, they have nothing to be ashamed of,” Wagner said. “Canfield is a good team and they had been here before. Our ball control broke down some and a lot of it had to do with nerves. But we played a good match and we played tough.”
The deep run through the state playoffs was nearly derailed before it ever began. Earlier in the season, the Blue Devils couldn’t find their hot spot and were losing games that perhaps shouldn’t have been lost.
Wagner called a meeting and opened some eyes to what could be achieved with this particular bunch.
“We were really struggling about two-thirds of the way through the season,” he said. “We had a big meeting that I initiated and then they just really turned it around from there. We went on a tear at the end of the season.
“I couldn’t be prouder of how they handled it. Initially, we thought we could contend for the Suburban League title. But we had opponents that we kind of let go. But they made the most of it in the end.”