Fall Sports Preview: Cardinals to feature a new head coach, Leirin Schmader, this fall

Aug. 25—The Cochranton Cardinals volleyball program will look different this season, both on the court and on the sideline.

Longtime head coach Marci Malliard has retired after 25 years, 11 region/conference titles, three PIAA second-place finishes and one PIAA title. Replacing Malliard is Leirin Schmader.

Schmader coached at Lakeview and Conneaut before joining Cochranton's staff. She has volunteered or assisted the Cardinals for eight years.

"These are huge shoes to fill, but I love this game and I'm just excited for the opportunity to continue to be a part of this program," Schmader said.

Last season, Cochranton lost to Maplewood in the District 10 championship match and finished the season 16-3. Gone from that team are starters Devyn Sokol, Taytum Jackson, Dana Jackson and Ella Gallo. Sokol, D. Jackson, T. Jackson and Gallo were each all-region selections.

"We have some returning players that may be moving into different spots and be asked to step up and fill some of the spots we lost," Schmader said. "Brooklyn Needler will be our lone senior. Dani Hoffman and Claire McCartney will be play a major role for us at the net as well as in the back row. Maggie Jackson is going to take on our setting role with Macie Williams being our libero."

Needler made the second-team all-region team last year.

In the middle, Eve Pfeiffer and Marley Rodax will see significant time. Schmader said both players are able to play multiple positions and they hope to take advantage of that. Addison Custead will also see action.

Overall, Schmader expects the Cardinals to grow individually and as a team this year.

"We have a nice core group of girls back from last year so I'm excited to see them build off of the season they had last year and hopefully use that experience for growth individually and as a team," Schmader said. "We've talked for awhile now that Cochranton's success has always come with solid serving and passing and tough defense. If we can do those things as a team I think good things will happen."

Cochranton will battle Maplewood, Cambridge Springs, Eisenhower, Iroquois, Youngsville and Tidioute Charter in Region 2. The Cardinals have non-region matches against North East and Meadville this season.

The Cardinals open their season at home against Cambridge Springs on Aug. 31.

Alex Topor can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at