Cape outlasts Falmouth in yet another volleyball thriller

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Cape Elizabeth’s volleyball team celebrates a point during Tuesday’s 3-1 win at Falmouth. The Capers stayed perfect on the season.

Joe Carpine /365digitalphotography.com photos.

More photos below.

FALMOUTH—There isn’t much separating the Cape Elizabeth and Falmouth volleyball teams.

And if things go as expected, the rivals will meet again next month with even more at stake.

Tuesday evening, the once-beaten Yachtsmen welcomed the undefeated Capers for a pivotal midseason showdown and some two palpitating hours later, while Cape Elizabeth prevailed in four close sets, it was fans of the sport who were the ultimate winners.

The Capers, who in a six-day span, avenged last year’s playoff ouster, rallied from a steep deficit to win at a Class A power, then held off an undefeated squad in another long match, showed no signs of fatigue in the first set, leading most of the way and riding nine assists from senior setter extraordinaire Maggie Dadmun and six kills and six service points from junior captain and hitting standout Megan Connelly to win, 25-19.

Cape Elizabeth was on the brink of capturing the second game as well, leading, 23-20 and 24-23, but back roared the tall and talented hosts, who evened the match with a 26-24 victory, capped by a block from senior Alston Armstrong.

The third set is always pivotal in a tie match and when more than 25 points are necessary to win it, it’s almost crucial to come out on top. The Capers managed to do so, but not without an abundance of nervous moments, as they failed on six straight set points to secure the win, blowing a 24-20 lead. Finally, after a controversial point went its way, Cape Elizabeth took the marathon game, 29-27, on a Dadmun ace.

The fourth set would be the easiest for the Capers, who shot to an early lead behind multiple kills from senior Anna Torre. Cape Elizabeth, getting contributions from numerous players, both expected and unexpected, gradually pulled away and closed out the 3-1 victory with a 25-13 decision.

The Capers hit the midway point of the season at 7-0, lengthened their lead in the Class B Heal Points standings and dropped Falmouth to 4-2 in the process.

“We like to make it dramatic,” said Cape Elizabeth coach Sarah Boeckel. “It’s the competition. Great competition. We have to fight for every point of every game.”

From A to B

With volleyball going to three classes this year and the enrollment numbers having been altered, both Cape Elizabeth and Falmouth (two of the past four Class A champions) have moved down this year to a stacked Class B, which features some of the state’s finest teams.

The Capers and Yachtsmen were viewed as preseason favorites and have done nothing in the early going to change anyone’s mind.

Cape Elizabeth started with 3-0 wins over visiting Kennebunk and host Gardiner and Brunswick. After downing visiting Mt. Desert Island in four sets in a playoff rematch, the Capers rallied to stun host Biddeford, 3-2, before handing visiting Yarmouth its first loss in four-sets.

Falmouth opened with a key four-set home win over defending Class A champion Greely, then swept host Cony and Gardner. After a four-set loss at Scarborough last Tuesday, the Yachtsmen bounced back and handled visiting South Portland in four-sets.

Heading into play Tuesday, Falmouth held a 9-3 all-time edge (see sidebar, below, for previous results). The Yachtsmen took the first five meetings by 3-0 margins and the first eight altogether before Cape Elizabeth’s stirring come-from-behind five-set triumph in the 2014 Class A state match.

Last year, Falmouth won in three sets at home (25-23, 25-13, 25-18).

This time around, it was the Capers’ turn, but it sure wasn’t easy.

The match began with Dadmun setting up Connelly for a kill on two straight points, the second after a lengthy rally. After the hosts got a point back, Cape Elizabeth got the next three, highlighted by a kill from junior Brooke Harvey and an ace from Connelly. Falmouth roared right back behind kills from senior Teagan McMahon and Danielle Casavant and an ace from senior Lydia Abbott. The match would be tied again at 8-8, 9-9, 10-10 and 11-11, before a Connelly kill put the visitors ahead to stay. With the score, 13-12, Connelly had a kill, served a point, then delivered an ace. The Yachtsmen got back within three points, but a Connelly kill and another point pushed the lead to 21-16. After a timeout, Falmouth crept back within 22-19 on a kill from McMahon, but after Cape Elizabeth got two more points and Yachtsmen coach Molly Northway called timeout, Torre produced a kill to end the set, 25-19, in the Capers’ favor.

After four ties and two lead changes in the first game, the second featured 11 ties and eight lead changes.

This time, Falmouth started quickly, scoring the first three points, capped by a block from freshman Annika Hester, but Cape Elizabeth turned the tide on a long point capped by a Harvey kill, then went on top, 4-3, on a Connelly kill. After the hosts tied the score, 6-6, on a block from Casavant, the Capers took a 9-6 lead behind an ace from senior Madeline Bauman. The Yachtsmen would tie the game, 9-9, and after Falmouth went on top, the score would be tied at 10-10, 11-11, 12-12, 13-13, 14-14 and 15-15 before a kill from Armstrong and an Abbott ace made it 17-15 Yachtsmen. Cape Elizabeth then ripped off four in a row, capped by an ace from junior Tess Dolan, who had a huge match. Falmouth got a point back on a fault, but senior Madison Sarka had consecutive kills for the Capers, forcing a Northway timeout. The Yachtsmen got back within a point on a kill from Hester, but the hosts then hit the ball out and Torre had an ace to make it 23-20.

Undaunted, Falmouth refused to buckle and after a Hester kill hung on the net and dropped, senior Alison Noyes tied the score with consecutive aces. When the Yachtsmen hit the ball out on the next point, Cape Elizabeth was on the brink of putting a stranglehold on the match, but a service fault tied the score, Hester came up with a kill to give Falmouth set point and the Yachtsmen took the game, 26-24, when Armstrong blocked a shot at the net, evening the match.

“We got a little sloppy and undisciplined in the second game and gave away points against a team more than capable of getting points on their own,” Boeckel lamented.

There was plenty of drama in the second set, but the third was even more breathtaking and at the end, controversial, as 12 more ties and six more lead changes occurred.

If the Capers were shaken by letting the second game slip away, they didn’t show it early in the third, as Dadmun started the set with consecutive aces. Falmouth then got a kill from Armstrong and consecutive aces from Hester to take the lead. With the Yachtsmen up, 4-3, a service fault tied it, then Dolan served an ace, followed by three more points for an 8-4 Cape Elizabeth advantage. Back roared the hosts again, as kills from Casavant and Noyes highlighted a 4-0 run to tie the score. After Capers sophomore Jaya McClure had a kill and Noyes countered with a block, Connelly kept play alive with a great dig and McClure put Cape Elizabeth back ahead with a block. The Capers got the next point, but the Yachtsmen ran off four in a row, highlighted by a Hester kill, an ace from Noyes and a Armstrong block to lead, 13-11.

The back-and-forth continued as the Capers took a 15-13 lead, but Falmouth tied it on kills from Hester and Armstrong. A kill from Harvey gave Cape Elizabeth the lead and Dadmun served up three straight aces for a 19-15 advantage. Falmouth crept back within 20-19 on consecutive aces from Abbott. With the Capers clinging to a 21-20 lead, Sarka had a kill and the Yachtsmen hit the ball out on consecutive points to leave Cape Elizabeth one point away from taking the set.

Down, 24-20, Falmouth could have folded, but instead, out of a timeout, it answered in impressive fashion with four straight points to extend the match. After a Noyes kill punctuated a long point, the Capers on three straight points, couldn’t get the ball over, making it 24-24.

“The (game two) momentum helped us carry into the third game, then we hesitated once we had some mistakes and it spiraled out of control, but I was really proud of them for a great comeback,” Northway said. “They had a lot of heart and dug deep.”

“We’ve got to work on putting games away and not letting teams back in,” Boeckel said. “We were on our heels and played tight. They did a good job. Molly took timeout at the right time. They did what they needed to do.”

At that point, a team had to win by two and Cape Elizabeth set up another set point after McClure had a kill. Again, the Yachtsmen rose off the deck as the Capers couldn’t return a shot. A Sarka kill put the visitors on the brink again, but again, Falmouth answered, on a Hester kill. When a Connelly kill attempt sailed just wide, the Yachtsmen were on the verge of stealing the game and taking control of the match, but a Connelly kill, her first of the game, made it 27-27.

Falmouth appeared to earn the next point on a kill from McMahon, as many on hand thought her shot deflected off a Cape Elizabeth player’s fingertips, but instead, the officials ruled it hadn’t and went out of bounds, putting the Capers ahead again.

“That was a game-changer,” said Northway. “Points like that at the end, it’s frustrating when you have a tight call that can go either your way not go your way. We had to roll with the punches. We all make mistakes.”

Cape Elizabeth saw it differently.

“I said to Molly, ‘I swear on my volleyball credibility that we did not touch it,'” said Boeckel.

This time, on its seventh try, Cape Elizabeth ended it, 29-27, as Dadmun’s serve couldn’t be returned, giving the Capers a 2-1 lead.

“That was scary, I’m not going to lie,” said Torre. “We had to stay focused and fight through it. Once we won, that was a confidence-booster. I was pretty excited at that point.”

“Whoever won that game was going to have a huge momentum shift going to the fourth game,” Boeckel said.

Indeed, Cape Elizabeth never trailed in the fourth set and salted away its victory.

After Connelly started the game with a kill, Harvey had a block. An Armstrong kill got a point back for the hosts, but Connelly had a kill to produce a 4-1 lead. After Casavant’s kill momentarily stemmed the tide, Torre took over with three straight kills to push the lead to 7-2.

“It’s easier for me to swing more aggressively as I go along,” said Torre.

A kill by Casavant and a block from Noyes cut the deficit to 8-5, but an ace from junior Kalie Manning made it 11-6. The next point went to Falmouth, or so we thought, but after discussion, the officials decreed a do-over, which fortunately for the hosts, went their way. The Yachtsmen would get as close as 12-10, but the next four points, highlighted by a kill from Torre and an ace from Connelly, made it 16-10. Consecutive kills from McClure then made the score, 18-11, and forced Northway to use a timeout.

“It’s nice to have Jaya go in and give (Anna) a break occasionally,” Boeckel said. “She had some important kills. The nice thing is that I have options. I put in who I think will get the job done.”

This time, the timeout didn’t help.

Falmouth pulled within 19-13 on a kill from Noyes, but a service fault sent Torre to the line and Torre had three straight aces.

“I told Anna where to serve and she did it,” Boeckel said.

After the Yachtsmen hit the ball out, Torre served one final time and while Falmouth handled it, Sarka blocked a final shot and the Capers had a 25-13 victory in the set and a 3-1 triumph in the match.

“It helped that we stayed in it mentally through the ups and downs,” Torre said. “We’re good at pulling it together and not getting down on each other. Falmouth is a good team. It’s a big win. It’s exciting.”

Cape Elizabeth got key contributions from many sources.

Dadmun was her usual steady self, registering 31 assists and 14 service points (including six aces).

Connelly finished with 11 kills and 10 service points (including three aces).

Torre had nine kills and nine service points, including four aces.

Dolan had 12 service points and was a rock in the back row, getting to shots and helping turn defense into offense.

McClure and Sarka added five kills apiece and Harvey had three kills and a block. Manning finished with six service points.

For Falmouth, freshman setter Katie Phillips had 22 assists and seven service points.

Hester contributed nine kills, Casavant had five kills, Armstrong had six blocks and Noyes finished with six kills, three blocks and seven service points (including four aces).

“It’s very frustrating,” Northway said. “It’s very mentally draining to play from behind. Cape’s a fantastic team. They dug everything up and put the ball down. Their offense was on fire.”

Second half

Falmouth looks to bounce back when it travels to Yarmouth for another key showdown Thursday.

“We’re definitely competing and we still have a lot of hard work to do,” Northway said. “We’ll move forward and that’s all we can do.”

Cape Elizabeth looks to stay perfect Thursday when it hosts Greely. After playing at York next Tuesday, the Capers will be tested at Scarborough two nights later.

What a difference a year makes.

“It’s more or less the same group of people as last year,” Torre said. “We found out what we’re capable of and we’re playing to our abilities. We have to stay focused and not get too confident.”

“We didn’t have our best year last year,” Boeckel said. “Winning eight matches is respectable, but we lost tight matches. One of our big preseason goals was to win tight matches this year, dig deep and get it done. The girls believe that.

“I’m a little scared about the ‘0’ (in our record). I don’t love it, but I don’t love losing either. We’ll sustain it as long as we can. If we drop a match, no big deal. It’s a learning experience.”

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

Cape Elizabeth junior Megan Connelly goes up for a kill as Falmouth freshman Katie Phillips defends.

Falmouth senior Danielle Casavant serves the ball.

With senior teammate Maggie Dadmun cheering her on, Cape Elizabeth junior Brooke Harvey goes up for a kill as Falmouth senior Alston Armstrong (22) and freshman Annika Hester defend.

Cape Elizabeth junior Megan Connelly and Falmouth seniors Danielle Casavant, left, and Alston Armstrong do battle at the net.

Previous Cape Elizabeth-Falmouth results

2016
@ Falmouth 3 Cape Elizabeth 0

2015
Cape Elizabeth 3 @ Falmouth 1
@ Cape Elizabeth 3 Falmouth 0

2014
@ Falmouth 3 Cape Elizabeth 0
Class A state match
Cape Elizabeth 3 Falmouth 2

2013
Falmouth 3 @ Cape Elizabeth 1
Class A state semifinals
@ Falmouth 3 Cape Elizabeth 2

2012
Falmouth 3 @ Cape Elizabeth 0

2011
Falmouth 3 @ Cape Elizabeth 0

2010
Falmouth 3 @ Cape Elizabeth 0

2009
@ Falmouth 3 Cape Elizabeth 0

2008
@ Falmouth 3 Cape Elizabeth 0

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