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During the 2015 season, Stow-Munroe Falls volleyball went with a youth movement in its first year in the Suburban League National Conference.
The result was Stow took its lumps in the loaded conference, but made some progress throughout the season.
Stow finished the year at 9-16, 5-9 in the National Conference.
However, Bulldogs coach Miguel Ramirez is a process guy -- and the plan is, with a year of experience under its belt, Stow will be more competitive this season.
"That's what we're hoping," Ramirez said. "That we continue to move forward and improve. We still have to keep our expectations realistic."
In his seventh year in charge of the program, Ramirez is keeping his team goals "close to the vest."
"I would like to be above .500 this year," Ramirez said. "I think we're more than capable of finishing that way if we play our style of volleyball. To me, records don't mean much as long as we're playing our best volleyball."
Ramirez said the National Conference will be loaded again, but one team stands as a definite favorite.
"I think it's still going to be strong, but I think there's going to be a lot of questions, because some teams graduated a lot," Ramirez said. "Brecksville will be dominant and Wadsworth will always be up there. It will be interesting to see how it shakes out."
Ramirez said he believes the Bees have a legitimate shot at reaching the Division I state final four.
Formation-wise, Stow will run a "split" 5-1 this fall, with one setter and five attackers
Stow will have Lizzy McDade serve as varsity assistant coach, while Heather Bails will serve as junior varsity head coach. Former Kimpton Middle School coach Pam Fair will serve as freshman coach this fall.
Stow lost four seniors to graduation in Kristen Buzaki, Tori Price, Regan Ahrens and Taylor Calvert.
While the team is young, there is a returning senior starter in outside hitter Lauren Turschak (5-foot-11), who also will see time this fall at right-side hitter.
Senior Maria Cistone (5-10) will get the nod at middle hitter.
Senior Kaylie Yaceczko is the team's tallest player at 6-foot-2. Ramirez said she has earned playing time at right side and middle hitter.
The junior class will be the backbone of the team, led by Julia DiPaola (5-10), who is a returning starter at outside hitter.
"She's been playing some high level JO [Junior Olympic] volleyball in the offseason and is getting recruited by colleges now,"
Junior Jacy Guider (5-9) is in for a change this fall as she switches to setter.
"We were trying to find some more candidates to fill the position," Ramirez said. "In open gym, she volunteered to set and it's gone from there."
Junior Alyssa Tallarico (5-6) could be in for a big year as Stow's staring libero, though Ramirez said Stow is "very deep" at the position.
Junior Kendall Feldman (5-7) also can play at libero or defensive specialist and "offers a lot to the team," according to Ramirez.
Juniors Sydney Sterben and Jillian Tegiacchi will provide depth at defensive specialist.
Sophomore Lizzy Stefanov (6-1) made a big impact starting at middle hitter as a freshman. Ramirez expects her to move all around the front row this season.
Sophomore setter Lauren Fair (5-8) got thrown to the wolves a bit last season, but looks to improve.
Sophomore Claire Overko will be part of Stow's defensive specialist rotation, whole sophomore Brooke Britton (5-8) adds depth at middle hitter.
Stow opened its season with a bang Aug. 23 at home, winning a five-set marathon over North Royalton 25-11, 20-25, 22-25, 25-20, 15-10.
DiPaulo led the Bulldogs with 14 kills, while Tallarico was all over the court with 23 digs. Fair had 24 assists for Stow, while Cistone had eight blocks.
Stow was set to host Revere Aug. 25, but results were not available at press time.
Stow will host a pair of National Conference foes this week, as its welcomes Wadsworth Aug. 30 and Nordonia Sept. 1. Game time both nights is at 7 p.m.