YARMOUTH—A week into the season, Cape Elizabeth’s defending Class A state champion volleyball team was 0-2, which led to some questioning whether last year’s memorable title run was a fluke.
Fast forward to Saturday night where the Capers put the finishing touches on their 12th successive victory, one which cemented their status as the top seed for the upcoming playoffs and the team to beat.
Cape Elizabeth’s 12th win was anything but easy, as Yarmouth, in its final home match, made the Clippers battle for every point in a thrilling 90-minute affair.
Yarmouth came out hot and behind the heroics of three Clarks, seniors Heather and Liz and junior Alison, took the first set, 25-20, handing the Capers their first loss in a set in 18 days.
Cape Elizabeth got things going in the second set, as the serving brilliance of senior Katie Connolly helped open up a lead and the Capers went on to a 25-18 decision.
The third set proved to be the difference, as Cape Elizabeth raced to an early 13-5 lead, but the Clippers crept back and pulled even on a Heather Clark kill at 24-24. With the pivotal game hanging in the balance, the Capers turned their experience in tough spots to prevail and after a Yarmouth service fault, an ace from sophomore Maggie Dadmun ended it, 26-24, in Cape Elizabeth’s favor.
The Capers didn’t have an easy time of it in the fourth set either, but managed to close it out, breaking a late tie on a kill from senior Maddie Bowe, then ending it in style on a kill from senior Tess Haller to take the game, 25-21, and the match, 3-1.
Cape Elizabeth improved to 12-2 overall, served notice that the road to the title still goes through the Capers and ended the Clippers’ fine season at 10-4 in the process.
“We do know how to win,” said Cape Elizabeth coach Sarah Boeckel. “I think we were a little tight tonight. I think it was the first time since the beginning of the season that we played not to lose. Good teams find a way to win and that’s what we’re doing.”
It’s fitting that two of the state’s top powers finished the regular season going head-to-head, as this campaign has featured more drama and balance than any to date.
Yarmouth, which won Class B in 2011, 2013 and 2014, moved up to Class A this fall and has shown it can compete. The Clippers opened by downing visiting Gorham (3-1), host Cony (3-0), host Kennebunk (3-0), visiting Scarborough in a five-set thriller and host Cheverus (3-0), before letting a sure win slip away in an agonizing five-set loss to Greely. After getting back in the win column, 3-0, over visiting Mt. Desert Island, Yarmouth fell in five sets again, at Scarborough, before winning, 3-1, at Gorham and 3-0 at home over Kennebunk. After a 3-1 loss at Falmouth, the Clippers blanked host Biddeford and visiting Cony.
Cape Elizabeth won Class A for the first time a year ago and the Capers began their title defense with a four-set loss to Scarborough, then lost a five-set classic to Greely. Cape Elizabeth got back on track with 3-0 victories over Mt. Desert Island and Biddeford, then turned the corner with a 3-1 win at Falmouth. From there, there’s been no slowing the champions, who defeated visiting Cony and Gorham in three sets, won in four sets at Greely, then blanked visiting Scarborough and won in three sets at both Thornton Academy and Kennebunk, swept visiting Falmouth Tuesday, then made it 11 straight victories Thursday with a 3-0 home win over Biddeford.
“Our team is very close and we’ve bonded a lot,” Connolly said. “I think that’s helped us. We had the slow start. I think we expected a lot, but we didn’t do it the first two matches. We’ve definitely picked it up.”
Yarmouth won the first seven meetings between the schools, but as Cape Elizabeth rounded into a championship contender in 2013, it beat the Clippers for the first time, 3-1. The teams didn’t meet a year ago as each went on to win a respective championship.
Saturday’s match could have gone either way, but with the biggest points up for grabs, the Capers played like the champions they are and hope to soon be again.
Yarmouth raced to a 4-0 first set lead behind an Alison Clark kill, a block from Heather Clark and an ace from senior Kenzie Sheehan. The lead reached as much as seven, 16-9, but after a Boeckel timeout, Cape Elizabeth responded and went on an 8-1 run, sparked by a pair of aces from senior defensive standout Lydia Brenneman, to tie the score, 17-17, forcing Clippers coach Jim Senecal to call timeout.
After the Capers took their first and only lead of the game, 18-17, a Cape Elizabeth service fault tied it up and Yarmouth went back on top on a Sheehan kill. Connolly tied the score with a kill, but the Capers faulted and the hosts were ahead to stay, 20-19. The Clippers added a point, then senior Morgan Hamre served up an ace, Sheehan had a block and a miscommunication between two Cape Elizabeth players led to another point, making it 24-19. Haller kill kept the Capers alive with a kill, but Sheehan answered with a kill and Yarmouth had the jump, 25-20.
Liz Clark had nine assists and three service points, Alison Clark added three kills, Heather Clark had four blocks and two kills and Hamre finished with four service points in the set, neutralizing six assists from Dadmun, four kills from Haller and five service points from senior Anni Ball.
The loss of the first set snapped a 17-set win streak for Cape Elizabeth, dating to a loss in the second game of a four-set win at Greely Sept. 29.
Not surprisingly, the Capers got off the deck in the second set and evened the match.
Again, the Clippers started fast, as Sheehan served an ace and Heather Clark had a kill, but a fault gave Cape Elizabeth a point and a block from Bowe tied the score. The game was tied again at 3-3, 6-6, 7-7 and 8-8 before a Haller kill put the visitors ahead for good. That point came on the first of nine straight service points from Connolly, who had just one ace in the run, but put Yarmouth on the defensive, leading to easy scoring chances, as Dadmun set up Haller, Ball and senior Monika Scheindel for kills.
After a Sheehan block ended the Capers’ 10-0 run, Yarmouth added four more points, capped by an ace from senior Rachel Chillé, to pull within 17-13. After the teams traded service faults, Cape Elizabeth got two straight points, capped by a Scheindel kill, for a 20-14 lead. The Clippers got two points back, then faulted and Scheindel delivered an ace to make it 22-16. A Heather Clark kill was answered by a Bowe kill and after Hamre had a kill to pull Yarmouth within five, Haller had a kill and a Clipper hit the ball into the net to give the Capers the set, 25-18.
Cape Elizabeth showed its ability to do everything well in that game, as Brenneman dove several times to keep the ball alive, Dadmun had nine assists, Haller produced six kills and four blocks and Connolly had nine service points.
The swing third set featured runs from both teams, but in the end, the Capers did what it took.
After ties at 1-1, 2-2 and 3-3, a Haller block gave Cape Elizabeth the lead, Brenneman added an ace and the Capers got another point for a 6-3 advantage. Cape Elizabeth went up, 9-4, then Hamre had a kill for Yarmouth, but the Clippers then faulted and after a breathtaking save by Connolly, the visitors got the next point too. Haller then had a kill and Connolly served up an ace to make it 13-5, forcing Senecal to call timeout.
It worked, as the Clippers got the next three points, capped by an ace from Hamre. After the teams traded faults, Bowe had a kill for a 15-9 lead. The Capers went up, 17-11, on a Haller kill from an impossible angle, but the next four points went to Yarmouth, forcing Boeckel to call timeout. The visitors responded, as Haller had a kill, Ball served up an ace and Haller had another kill to make it 20-15, but kills from Chillé and Heather Clark cut the deficit to three. Cape Elizabeth went back ahead by five, 22-17, on a Connolly kill, but the hosts got a point back, got a kill from Heather Clark, another point, then another Hamre ace to pull within one, 22-21. Haller answered with a kill after a long point and Bowe produced a kill to push the Capers to the brink of a set win, but the Clippers roared back, getting a kill from Heather Clark, a Chillé ace and a Heather Clark kill to make it 24-24, forcing Boeckel to call timeout.
Out of the break, Yarmouth faulted and this time, Cape Elizabeth finished it off, as Dadmun served up an ace, giving the Capers a 26-24 set win.
“I said in the timeout, ‘You’re playing not to lose. Let’s go out there and play to win and if we lose, that’s fine, but play to win,'” Boeckel said.
The Capers got by thanks to tremendous balance, as Ball had four service points, Haller four kills, Scheindel four service points, Bowe four kills, Connolly four service points and three kills and Dadmun nine more assists in the third game.
The Clippers got six kills and three service points from Alison Clark, 10 assists from Liz Clark, five service points from Hamre and five kills and a block from Heather Clark, but it wasn’t enough.
The fourth set was close as well, but once again, Cape Elizabeth came through in the end.
Yarmouth started fast, going up, 3-0, as Alison Clark sandwiched kills around an ace from junior Andrea St. Pierre. The Capers got the next three points to tie, then went ahead, 7-6, on a Connolly kill. Brenneman followed with an ace, Haller had a block, Connolly added a kill and Haller had one more kill to make it 11-6. The Clippers roared back, tying the score on a Hamre ace, then going up, 13-12, as a Heather Clark kill capped a 7-1 run.
The Capers got the next four points, as Connolly had a kill and an ace, then a kill from Scheindel made it 18-14. Again, Yarmouth responded, as an Alison Clark kill and St. Pierre ace sparked a four-point run which made it 18-18. After a Bowe kill, Alison Clark had one of her own to make it 19-19.
Cape Elizabeth wasn’t going to let it slip away, however, and Connolly continued to play without peer above the net, smashing a kill to put the visitors ahead for good. After another point, Scheindel served up an ace and Connolly had another kill to make it 23-19. The Clippers got a point back, but Connolly’s final kill put the Capers on the brink. Out of a timeout, Chillé kept Yarmouth’s hopes alive with a kill, but Haller quickly dashed those hopes with a kill and Cape Elizabeth had the set, 25-21, and the match, 3-1.
“We didn’t bring our ‘A’ game today, but we love this sport,” Connolly said. “We were looking forward to this match. We know what to do. When our backs are up against the wall, we put it all on the court and work together as a team.”
“We talked about how this year and last year are very different, but we’ve taken the mental toughness from last year into this year,” Boeckel said. “We know we can walk into any gym and beat any team on a given day, but we also know that any team can beat us. We expect to win, but we also expect to have to fight.”
For the match, Connolly finished with 15 kills and 15 service points, including three aces.
“I knew I had to get every single ball in,” Connolly said. “I feel like I’ve been swinging well and Maggie’s given me great sets. She’s incredible.”
“Katie’s serving was huge,” Boeckel said. “Early on, her hitting was off, but hitters hit and she pulled it together.”
Haller had her usual dominant game at the net, finishing with 19 kills and six blocks.
Bowe had nine kills and two blocks.
Scheindel finished with seven service points, including three aces, and also had five kills.
Dadmun’s pinpoint passing gave her a whopping 38 assists.
Brenneman had 11 service points, including four aces, and she hit the floor too many times to count to keep her team alive when points appeared lost.
“Our defense has really helped us win,” Connolly said.
Ball was a secret weapon Saturday, producing 10 service points.
“Anni or (junior) Rose Punsky on any given day, either one could be on the court,” Boeckel said. “Anni played great and Rose has played great too. It’s a luxury for me to have them both.”
For Yarmouth, Alison Clark led the way with 14 kills.
“Alison played very strong,” Senecal said. “We tried to get the ball to her more. When we get a solid pass, that’s where we want to go. She’s a great hitter.”
Heather Clark had 11 kills and nine blocks. Liz Clark finished with 29 assists. Sheehan added six service points and three kills. Chillé had five kills and five service points. Hamre had nine service points, including three aces, and St. Pierre finished with seven service points.
“We played them tough the whole way,” Senecal said. “We came out very, very aggressive. It was very close. It comes down to knowing how to finish and getting over the hump. We’ve had situations like that, but we haven’t been able to finish. It’s too bad, but credit Cape. They came into our gym and we were fired up and the place was loud, but they did a great job.”
The Class A playoffs start this week and Cape Elizabeth and Yarmouth have what it takes to go all the way.
The Clippers figure to be ranked eighth or ninth and will likely meet Bonny Eagle in a preliminary round matchup Wednesday.
If Yarmouth wins that, it would stare down the Capers again in the quarterfinals Saturday.
“We know we’re a very good team,” Senecal said. “We know the Heal Points are a little messed up this year. We’ll go in as like a 9 (seed), or something, but we’re right there with the top teams and play with anybody. We’re ready to start a second season.”
The Capers had to go on the road to win the championship in 2014. This fall, Cape Elizabeth will be at home.
“We have a lot of seniors on the team and we want to do it,” Connolly said. “We’ll work a lot in practice in week. We’ll play hard. We’re ready.”
“It’s different this year,” Boeckel said. “We’re home, we’re number one, so that’s more pressure, but (the girls) embrace it. We think we’re the best team.”
Yarmouth senior Morgan Hamre tips the ball at Cape Elizabeth sophomore Maggie Dadmun, with Clippers junior Rachel Chillé also in the play.
Cape Elizabeth senior Tess Haller prepares to finish a point in the manner she does so well.
Cape Elizabeth senior Lydia Brenneman, who had another superb defensive game, handles a shot.
Yarmouth junior Alison Clark sends the ball past Cape Elizabeth senior Anni Ball.
Yarmouth senior Heather Clark blasts a kill as Cape Elizabeth senior Maddie Bowe defends.
Cape Elizabeth sophomore Maggie Dadmun sets the ball.
Cape Elizabeth senior Tess Haller exults after a point during the Capers’ 3-1 win at Yarmouth Saturday night.
Mike Strout photos.
Yarmouth junior Sydney St. Pierre, left, and seniors Liz Clark and Kenzie Sheehan hug after the Clippers win the first set Saturday.
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Yarmouth 3 @ Cape Elizabeth 0
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