Cape Elizabeth blanks Falmouth in perfect finish

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Cape Elizabeth junior Tess Dolan, left, senior Maggie Dadmun, junior Megan Connelly, senior Anna Torre, junior Brooke Harvey and junior Jessie Robicheaw celebrate at the conclusion of Saturday’s three-set win over Falmouth in the Class B state final. The Capers finished the season a perfect 17-0.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

CAPE ELIZABETH—A magical season was capped by a perfect ending Saturday afternoon.

Cape Elizabeth’s volleyball team, which couldn’t even reach the quarterfinals a year ago, completed a magic carpet ride of triumph on their home court in the Class B state final, outlasting a fired-up foe coming off an inspirational victory.

The top-ranked Capers met up with third-ranked Falmouth in a showcase of top-notch talent and while the match ended more quickly than most expected, there were many highlights.

Cape Elizabeth never trailed in the first set, riding the pinpoint passing of senior setter extraordinaire Maggie Dadmun, four aces from junior Tess Dolan and a pair of kills from junior secret weapon Jessie Robicheaw to a 25-13 victory, which was punctuated by a kill from junior Megan Connelly.

The Yachtsmen started the second game strong with three straight points and later took a seemingly safe 18-12 lead behind a pair of aces from freshman Katie Phillips, but the Capers rallied to twice put themselves on the brink of winning the set, only to see Falmouth stay alive both times. The Yachtsmen then twice got wiithin a point of evening the match, but each time, Cape Elizabeth made the plays to extend the set. Then, after a terrific Dolan save kept the point alive, Falmouth hit the ball into the net, giving the Capers their third set point and this time, they ended it, as the Yachtsmen couldn’t get the ball over the net and Cape Elizabeth had the momentum-altering 29-27 victory, sparked by six Connelly kills and eight assists and five service points from Dadmun.

Falmouth rallied from two sets down in the semifinals against Yarmouth Wednesday, but there would be no such heroics this time.

The Capers looked to finish the Yachtsmen quickly in the third set, rolling to an 18-9 lead, but Falmouth, showing its vast reservoir of heart, roared back, drawing as close as 21-20 on a block from senior Danielle Casavant, but Cape Elizabeth, one final time, dug deep, got a critical kill from Robicheaw and an ace from Connelly. After the Yachtsmen got one final point, the Capers got kills from senior Anna Torre and Robicheaw and that ended the third set, 25-21, and gave Cape Elizabeth the match and the championship, 3-0.

The Capers got critical contributions from players well-known and unheralded, won Class B for the first time, captured their second state title in four seasons, finished a program-best 17-0 and in the process, ended Falmouth’s season at 12-5.

“I’m not usually emotional, but I’m having a hard time coming up with words to say how proud I am of this team,” said Cape Elizabeth coach Sarah Boeckel. “We talked before the match about how what we’ve done this season is impressive, so we knew whatever happened today, it was a win.”

Role reversal

In 2014, Cape Elizabeth completed a dazzling, highwire act of playoff comebacks by rallying from two sets down to shock Falmouth in five games in the Class A state final (see sidebar, below).

Prior to Saturday, that was the Capers’ lone prior state match appearance.

Falmouth, meanwhile had played four previous times for titles. The Yachtsmen were swept in 2009 by Greely and in 2010 by Biddeford before breaking through in 2013 with a four-set victory over Scarborough. Falmouth was then on the verge of repeating in 2014 before losing in five-games to Cape Elizabeth.

Both teams fell short in 2015 and 2016, but this fall have returned to excellence.

The Capers, who lost to Mt. Desert Island in the preliminary round last fall, didn’t lose a match in the regular season and as the top seed in Class B (due to growth, the sport reclassified this year), advanced by virtue of a 3-0 quarterfinal round victory over eighth-ranked Kennebunk and a straight set win over fifth-ranked Greely in Wednesday’s semifinal round.

The Yachtsmen, meanwhile, lost early in four sets at Scarborough, then had a rough stretch, where they lost four-set decisions at home to Cape Elizabeth and at Yarmouth and later, they dropped a five-setter at the Capers. Falmouth closed on a three-match win streak, however, and as the No. 3 seed in Class B, swept No. 6 Cony in the quarterfinals. The semifinal round would be much tougher, but the Yachtsmen rallied from two sets down at second-ranked Yarmouth to win a five-set thriller Wednesday night.

In the teams’ first meeting this fall, in Falmouth, Cape Elizabeth took the first set, 25-19, and after the Yachtsmen won the second, 26-24, the Capers closed out the match with 29-27 and 25-13 victories.

In the rematch, at Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth won the first set, 25-19, but the next two went to the Capers: 25-15 and 25-12. The Yachtsmen stayed alive by taking the fourth game, 25-20, but in the decisive fifth set, Cape Elizabeth prevailed, 15-7.

Saturday, the Capers would again be pushed, but as has been the case all season, they pushed back and ultimately, earned their coronation.

A Dadmun ace got things started and Cape Elizabeth never looked back in the first set. Robicheaw followed with a kill and after Falmouth got on the board, the Capers opened up a 7-2 lead behind a block from senior Madison Sarka and an ace from Dolan, forcing Yachtsmen coach Molly Northway to call timeout.

It didn’t have the desired effect, as Dolan served up another ace. Falmouth would creep back within 9-5 on a kill and an ace from freshman Annika Hester, but after winning a long point highlighted by a save from senior Madeline Bauman, Cape Elizabeth got a kill from Sarka to help open up a 13-6 advantage. A block from senior Alston Armstrong pulled the Yachtsmen within 14-9, but Robicheaw had a kill, Torre produced a kill after a terrific dig from junior Brooke Harvey, Harvey had a block and Robicheaw added a block for a 19-9 lead, necessitating another timeout.

Again, it didn’t help, as Dolan served a pair of aces and after a service fault, Torre produced a kill to make it 23-11. Senior Alison Noyes got a point back for Falmouth with a kill, but the Yachtsmen then hit the ball into the net. Falmouth staved off the inevitable when a Sarka kill attempt just landed outside the line, but Connelly brought the curtain down on the first game with a kill to give the Capers a 25-13 victory.

“We came out confident,” Connelly said. “We tried to swing as hard as we could. It’s all of us trusting each other. We smiled at each other and gave each other high fives. We don’t get nervous and we don’t get mad at each other.”

“Winning the first game was key,” Robicheaw said. “If we hadn’t won, it would have been a very different match.”

“I was a little worried we’d come out in the first game and make silly errors, but we didn’t,” Boeckel added. “I wanted to win the first game because I knew they were coming off a huge match and they were feeling good.”

In the first set, Dadmun had seven assists, Dolan six service points, including four aces, Connelly four service points, a kill and a block and Robicheaw two kills and a block.

Cape Elizabeth would win the second set too, but it came with far more difficulty.

A pair of aces from Phillips sparked a quick 3-0 start for the Yachtsmen, but the Capers drew even at 4-4. The teams were tied again at 7-7 and 8-8 and a Torre kill put the Capers up, 10-8. Falmouth tied it, but an ace from freshman Julia Torre made it 12-10 Cape Elizabeth and Northway called timeout.

This time, the Yachtsmen responded in a big way, running off eight straight points.

A Capers’ service fault got things started. Phillips then stepped to the line and served seven straight points, highlighted by three aces. Armstrong had a kill and a block in the run and just like that, Falmouth had an 18-12 lead, but it wouldn’t last.

After getting a point back, Cape Elizabeth got an ace from Dadmun, another point, a kill from Connelly and another Dadmun ace to pull within 18-17. An Armstrong kill momentarily restored order for the Yachtsmen, but the Capers got a kill from Connelly to tie it, 19-19. The next point went to Falmouth, but Anna Torre made it 20-20 with a kill. Again, the Yachtsmen re-took the lead on a Hester kill, but a service fault made it 21-21. Cape Elizabeth then had an errant serve to put Falmouth back on top, but a Connelly kill tied the score and the Yachtsmen were called for a violation, giving the Capers a 23-22 lead. Noyes tied the set with a kill, but a Connelly kill put Cape Elizabeth on the brink.

And then the fun began.

The Capers weren’t able to close out the set, as they hit the ball into the net. They got another chance, however, after a Connelly kill, but senior Teagan McMahon tied it, 25-25, for Falmouth with a kill. The Yachtsmen then got a block from Hester and were on the verge of evening the match, but they were called for a carry to tie it again. Again, Falmouth put itself on the brink, as Hester had a kill, but the Yachtsmen hit the ball into the net to make it 27-27. After Dolan made another fabulous save, Falmouth couldn’t return the ball and for the third time, Cape Elizabeth had set point and the third time proved to be the charm, as the Yachtsmen couldn’t return the ball and the Capers had the set, 29-27, and a commanding 2-0 lead in the match.

“The second set was a huge turning point,” Anna Torre said. “That was such a battle, one of the hardest sets we’ve ever played. We wouldn’t let the ball drop and that helped a lot.”

“We do so well under pressure,” Robicheaw said. “Other teams crack, but we thrive under pressure.  I can’t believe how we came through. It just shows our perseverance.”

“We weren’t nervous or worried,” Boeckel added. “We’re not the biggest team, or maybe the best team, but we’re mentally tough and we love a long rally.”

Not surprisingly, two of Cape Elizabeth’s captains, Connelly (six kills) and Dadmun (eight assists, five service points). came up huge in the match’s most pivotal set.

“The way Boeckel coaches us, we’re so mentally strong,” Connelly said. “She pushes us.”

“It’s always so important to come out and to play our game,” Dadmun said. “Falmouth is always a great team. They had great swings. We knew they’d get their points, but we rallied and played as a team.”

Phillips had 10 service points and seven assists in the game, but it wasn’t enough for a Yachtsmen squad that was starting to feel the after-effects from their semifinal round victory.

“Losing that set was tough,” Northway said. “We gave our all and had a huge comeback. If we won it, it would have been a game-changer. The girls were exhausted and they deserved to be. They worked their butts off (to beat Yarmouth). That was a season highlight. The last two days of practice were challenging.”

Knowing Falmouth’s penchant for rallying, the Capers entered the third set hoping to close out the match as quickly as possible, but again, the Yachtsmen would give them a tussle.

A block by Robicheaw started the game and Cape Elizabeth got a kill from Harvey to go up, 3-1, but the next four points went to Falmouth, punctuated by a Hester kill and an ace from senior Kayla Warner. The Capers then tied it, 5-5 as Robicheaw twice blocked Hester kills.

“This whole year, my focus has been on blocking, so to be able to finish off the season blocking one of the best hitters in the league felt so amazing,” Robicheaw said.

“Jessie is peaking at the right time,” Boeckel said. “I didn’t even have her starting at the beginning of the season. She’s such an athlete, such a gamer.”

After the teams traded faults, Cape Elizabeth went ahead to stay and added a point for an 8-6 lead after another nice Dolan save. The Yachtsmen got a point back, but the next seven went to the Capers. A kill from Sarka, two aces from Anna Torre, a Sarka block and a Connelly kill stretched the lead to 15-7. Torre served six straight points.

“I serve better once I get one or two points,” Torre said. “The more I serve, the better it is for me.”

Out of a timeout, Falmouth got successive points, on a Cape Elizabeth service fault and a Hester ace, but a kill from Connelly and two more points, highlighted by a Harvey save, made it 18-9. The Yachtsmen then rattled off four in a row, as Casavant had a pair of kills, but when Harvey had successive blocks and Connelly added a kill for a 21-13 lead, it appeared the Capers were in business, but again, Falmouth embarked on a big run to make things very interesting.

A kill from Hester, a kill from Casavant and a Casavant block forced Boeckel to call timeout, but it didn’t help, as the Yachtsmen got four more points, punctuated by a Casavant block, to cut the deficit to 21-20.

Cape Elizabeth wasn’t out to give up the title that was close enough to taste, however, as Robicheaw’s kill attempt hung on the net and dropped for a point and Connelly followed with an ace. Falmouth kept hope alive with a kill from Armstrong, but Anna Torre had a kill and at 2:23 p.m., after 80 hard-fought minutes, Robicheaw ended it with a kill and the Capers had the third set, 25-21, and the Class B state title, three sets to none.

“I had messed up a few points before that, so I wanted to redeem myself,” said Robicheaw, of the final point. “It got scary at the end, but we showed we can push through no matter the circumstances. I’m honestly left with no words. From the beginning of the season, we wanted to make it here, knowing we were going to hold the state game here. Going undefeated throughout the season, I couldn’t have imagined a better year. We were closer as a team this season and everyone loves everyone. We work so well together. No one is ever down on this team.”

“It feels awesome,” said Connelly, who joins her older sister, Katie Connelly, who was in attendance Saturday, as a Cape Elizabeth volleyball champion. “Katie won it her junior year, so it’s great to win myself. She told me that this was our year.”

“We rallied together and played as a team,” Dadmun said. “We knew if we gave our all, the outcome would be good. It’s incredible. I’m so proud of the team, all 18 of us. I’m so thankful for the coaches. They’ve worked so hard for us all season. All our hitters did well. Jessie had amazing blocks, Tess had amazing digs. We pushed through. I was in awe that we did it. It was an incredible turnaround. We had pretty much the same team, so we grew together for two seasons. We really wanted it this season. We used the pressure well and kept our cool and stayed disciplined. All our hard work since August 14th paid off.”

“It’s just unbelievable,” Anna Torre said. “We don’t feel the pressure. If they got one or two points, we said, ‘no more’ and we focused. We tried not to give up runs and we did a pretty good job of that. I can’t believe we won 17 times. It’s so great to have been a part of it. It’s been awesome.”

“Every time we won tight matches this year, I wondered if it would come back to bite us in playoffs, but it didn’t,” Boeckel added. “When we got out to that huge lead (in the third set), I thought they’d roll over, but they didn’t and that was impressive.

Dadmun, who doesn’t plan to play volleyball in college, produced 20 assists and 11 service points, including three aces, in her swan song.

Dadmun, who saw ample time on a championship team as a freshman, got to bow out with another title. She’ll down in program lore as the one of the finest players to don a Capers uniform.

“It’s incredible to start and finish with a Gold Ball,” Dadmun said. “I had two completely different experiences. As the youngest (player as a freshman), I learned from Monica Della’qulla and Tess Haller and those amazing players. Now, as a leader with Megan and Anna, we have so much heart.”

“It’s been amazing to play with Maggie,” Connelly said. “She seems to know who’s on fire and her sets are always perfect.”

“Maggie is, hands-down, the backbone of our team,” Boeckel added. “She keeps us in so many points. It’s awesome for her to get two (titles).”

Connelly started slowly, but came on strong and wound up with 10 kills, four blocks and seven service points.

Robicheaw, best known as Cape Elizabeth’s ace softball pitcher, who didn’t even start earlier in the season, made a mighty impact with five kills and five blocks.

Dolan, who had too many big digs to count, produced nine service points, including four aces.

Anna Torre wound up with seven service points (including six in the decisive third set) and four kills.

“Anna Torre struggled in the regular season, but she peaked at the end,” Boeckel said.

Julia Torre had five service points, Bauman three service points, Harvey three kills and three blocks and Sarka three blocks and two kills.

Not quite enough

Falmouth battled gamely and got strong showings from several sources.

Phillips bowed out with 16 service points (including five aces) and 12 assists.

Hester, who has a very bright future, finished with seven kills.

Armstrong and Casavant both added five kills and three blocks, Warner had four service points, Noyes had two blocks and two kills, senior Lydia Abbott had four service points and senior Katie Stimson had six assists.

“The girls stepped it up after the first set,” Northway said. “That was really frustrating, because we worked on starting strong. The girls believed in themselves, I believed in them and I’m proud of how far they came this season. The girls developed greatly. We learned so much.”

Falmouth will bid adieu to Abbott, Armstrong, Casavant, McMahon, Noyes, Stimson and Warner.

“They didn’t have experience, but the seniors were phenomenal, especially our captains (Abbott, Casavant and McMahon),” Northway said. “I can’t say enough good things about them.”

Falmouth will be led in 2018 by Hester and Phillips and you can rest assured that the Yachtsmen will make a deep playoff run again.

Perhaps all the way to the pinnacle.

“We’re getting closer,” Northway said. “All the girls want it. After a taste of it this year, it will only help us next year.”

Repeat?

As for Cape Elizabeth, while it has to say goodbye to Bauman, Dadmun, Sarka and Anna Torre, along with Caroline Murphy and Erin O’Rourke, the 2018 version will be right back in the hunt behind the likes of Connelly, Dolan, Harvey, Robicheaw and Julia Torre.

“We had a really strong bench this year, so I’m positive about next year,” Connelly said.

“We’d like to do it one more time,” Robicheaw said.

“I’m so excited for the team next year,” said Dadmun. “I’m excited to see (sophomore) Corina (Page) set. There’s no doubt in my mind, they’ll do well and I’ll be following.”

“Losing Maggie, Madison, Madeline and Anna will be huge, but we’ll try to repeat,” Boeckel added. “We’ll give it our all.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports

Cape Elizabeth junior Megan Connelly blocks the kill attempt of Falmouth senior Alison Noyes.

Cape Elizabeth senior Madeline Bauman lines up a serve.

Cape Elizabeth junior Brooke Harvey is met at the net by Falmouth senior Alston Armstrong.

Falmouth freshman Katie Phillips keeps her eye on the ball.

Cape Elizabeth senior Madison Sarka is met at the net by Falmouth seniors Alison Noyes (14) and Danielle Casavant.

Cape Elizabeth juniors Brooke Harvey, left, and Jessie Robicheaw try to block the kill attempt of Falmouth freshman Annika Hester.

Cape Elizabeth junior Tess Dolan sets the ball.

Falmouth seniors Alston Armstrong (22) and Teagan McMahon celebrate a point.

Cape Elizabeth’s student section had a lot to cheer about Saturday.

Falmouth’s fan section also turned out in force.

Falmouth senior captains Teagan McMahon, left, Lydia Abbott and Danielle Casavant, along with their coaches, receive the runner-up trophy.

Cape Elizabeth junior Megan Connelly, left, senior Maggie Dadmun and senior Anna Torre show off the Gold Ball.

Previous Cape Elizabeth stories

Season Preview

Cape Elizabeth 3 Yarmouth 1

Cape Elizabeth 3 Falmouth 1 

Cape Elizabeth 3 Scarborough 0

Previous Falmouth stories

Season Preview

Cape Elizabeth 3 Falmouth 1 

Yarmouth 3 Falmouth 0

Previous Cape Elizabeth state match results

2014 Class A
Cape Elizabeth 3 Falmouth 2

Previous Falmouth state match results

2014 Class A
Cape Elizabeth 3 Falmouth 2

2013 Class A
Falmouth 3 Scarborough 1

2010 Class A
Biddeford 3 Falmouth 0

2009 Class A
Greely 3 Falmouth 0

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.