Cape volleyball beats Greely for the first time

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CAPE ELIZABETH—Cape Elizabeth’s volleyball team isn’t just talented.

It also appears to have the heart of a champion.

And if things continue to progress for the Capers, that’s just what they might become in a few weeks.

Thursday evening, Cape Elizabeth welcomed the state’s gold standard, Greely, in a pivotal late season showdown and while the Capers would beat the Rangers for the first time in program history, it didn’t come easily.

In the first set, Greely raced out to a 22-14 lead, the kind of advantage that almost always means curtains for the opposition, but Cape Elizabeth, behind the brilliant net play of junior Tess Haller, roared back and changed the complexion of the whole match when a Haller block produced a 27-25 win.

The second set was more of the same, as the Rangers led, 15-9, but again the Capers rallied and prevailed, 25-23, when senior Monica Dell’Aquila delivered an ace.

In the third game, Cape Elizabeth tried playing from ahead and opened up a 24-18 lead, but the Capers discovered just how hard it can be to hold on as Greely ran off four points in succession, but the rally ended there and the Capers closed it out, 25-22, to win the match, 3-0.

Cape Elizabeth has now won eight straight matches, beat the Rangers for the first time in 10 all-time meetings, improved to 11-2 and ended Greely’s regular season at 12-2 in the process.

“I’m beyond proud and psyched for my team,” said Capers coach Sarah Boeckel. “I’m still in shock. It was an impressive win. Going into playoffs, you want to play your best volleyball and I think we’re playing our best volleyball right now. I couldn’t be happier.”

Opposite directions

Cape Elizabeth arrived as a top contender a year ago, falling mere points shy of playing for the state championship.

Greely, on the other hand, has been a championship caliber program since joining the varsity ranks a dozen years ago.

So far this fall, both teams have made their mark, the Rangers from the get-go, while the Capers have turned it on after a sluggish start.

Cape Elizabeth opened with a 3-0 win at South Portland, then lost at Greely by the same margin. A 3-0 win at Cony and a 3-1 triumph at Cheverus were followed by a 3-0 loss at Falmouth. The Capers then blanked visiting Windham and won at home over Biddeford in four sets, a decision which turned their season around.

“We knew we didn’t come to play when we lost to Falmouth,” Boeckel said. “Beating Biddeford, we had to fight. That got us over the hump. That showed us we could win long rallies and win a tough match. I think the light bulb went on and the girls knew they could play with anyone.”

Cape Elizabeth then beat visiting Thornton Academy, 3-0, held off visiting Scarborough in a five-set thriller, then blanked host North Yarmouth Academy, won at Gorham (3-1) and blanked visiting Kennebunk.

Greely opened with wins over Yarmouth (3-1), Windham (3-0), Cape Elizabeth (3-0) and Gorham (3-1), then produced an epic 3-2 come-from-behind win over Biddeford. The Rangers then blanked visiting Falmouth, won at Thornton Academy (3-0) and held on for a five-set win at Scarborough, before rolling over Cony, Cheverus and Kennebunk in three-sets. Greely finally stumbled last Thursday, at Falmouth, in three sets, but bounced back with a 3-1 triumph at South Portland Tuesday.

Entering Thursday’s battle, the Rangers had beaten the Capers in all nine previous meetings, eight of which ended in three sets. The exception was last year when Cape Elizabeth held a 2-1 lead, but Greely rallied to prevail in a five-game thriller.

This time around, the Rangers appeared to have things going their way until they didn’t and the Capers made history.

Cape Elizabeth opened up a 6-3 lead in the first set behind a pair of aces from Dell’Aquila and after Greely went on top, tied the game, 8-8 (on a block from junior Maddie Bowe), and 9-9 (on a Dell’Aquila kill), but a kill from junior Alex Tebbs put the Rangers on top and they gradually pulled away.

A Tebbs kill made it 14-10 and forced Boeckel to call timeout. It didn’t help, as Greely got a kill from senior Emily Buchanan and one from senior Lauren Weickert to stretch the lead to 22-14. A set victory appeared to be a mere formality, but the Capers had other ideas.

A Rangers’ service fault, their sixth of the set, sparked the comeback. Capers junior Katie Connelly delivered a pair of aces to cut the deficit to 22-17, forcing Greely coach Kelvin Hasch to call timeout. When Tebbs produced a kill, it appeared to have done the trick, but Cape Elizabeth kept coming, creeping within 23-21 on a kill from Haller, then 23-22 on a kill from Dell’Aquila.

Hasch tried calling another timeout and when the Capers hit the ball into the net on the next point, the Rangers needed only one point to finish it out.

It didn’t happen.

Cape Elizabeth got a point back, then got a block and a kill from Haller to make it 24-24, the first tie of the set since it was 9-9. Greely again earned set point when Dell’Aquila hit a ball long, but Capers junior libero Lydia Brenneman managed to push the ball just over the net and have it land safely to tie the score, 25-25. Haller then put the hosts on the brink with a kill and on the next point, Haller came up with a huge block and Cape Elizabeth had come all the way for a momentum-turning 27-25 victory.

“We worked really hard because we believed we could get it done,” Haller said. “We dug a lot of holes tonight, but we worked hard to get out of them. That first set got our morale going and helped us for the rest of the match.”

“I don’t know how we pulled that game out,” Boeckel said. “Tess’ blocking has been a struggle, but tonight it was not. She was great.”

The second set was more of the same.

Greely started with kills from Tebbs and junior Hannah Butland, then made it 6-2 on an ace from senior Audrey Mann. An ace from Weickert and a Tebbs kill pushed the Rangers’ lead to 12-6. Cape Elizabeth crawled back to 12-9 on successive kills from Dell’Aquila, but a Tebbs kill, followed by one from sophomore Kayley Cimino, made it 15-9 and forced Boeckel to call timeout.

The Capers, having seen this movie before, responded, and drew within 15-12 on an ace from freshman Maggie Dadmun. Greely took a 19-15 lead on a Cimino kill, but Dell’Aquila responded with a kill and Cape Elizabeth won the next point as well, forcing Hasch to call timeout, which didn’t work, as Bowe had a kill and the Capers took the next point to make it 19-19.

A service fault put the Rangers back on top, but Bowe had a kill to tie it. Again, Greely took the lead, 21-20, but Cape Elizabeth got the next two points. A Cimino kill after a long point tied it, 22-22, but the Capers went back on top, only to give the next point away on a service fault, making it 23-23.

With the set hanging in the balance, Dell’Aquila won the next point with a block and Dell’Aquila followed with an ace and Cape Elizabeth had done it again, winning, 25-23.

“We went into (that set) saying we wouldn’t dig another hole, but we did and we were confident we could dig ourselves back out,” Dadmun said.

“I don’t know why we make it so hard on ourselves,” Boeckel said. “We’ve worked on mental toughness and hanging in on every point. That really showed tonight.”

The third set was comparatively anticlimactic.

Once again, Greely started fast, taking the first first two points and holding leads of 6-4, 7-6 and 8-7, but this time, the Capers answered quickly, rattling off four points in a row, highlighted by a Haller kill and a Connelly block, to go on top for good, 11-8. The Rangers got a point back, but a Dell’Aquila kill and a Connelly ace made it 14-9. Successive aces from Tebbs got Greely within 16-15, but Brenneman turned the tide with a tremendous effort, diving to not only save a sure kill, but sending it back over the net where it landed for a Cape Elizabeth point, giving the Capers a two-point edge.

“I think my teammates keep me calm, especially Tess,” Brenneman said. “I’m confident out there.”

“(Lydia’s) running the court so well right now,” Boeckel said. “Last year, she got a lot of court time at a young age in a new position. It was a growing year. This year, she came in with confidence and believes she can win any ball.”

Cimino countered with a kill, but Haller had a block, Haller delivered an ace and after a Hasch timeout, Cape Elizabeth got another point and Bowe delivered a kill for a 21-16 lead. The Rangers got a kill from freshman Sara Agren, but the next two points went to the Capers, making it 23-17.

After a final Greely timeout, the Rangers got a point, but the ensuing serve went into the net and Cape Elizabeth was up, 24-18, and found itself a single point from victory.

It would come, but not for awhile.

Greely got the next point, got a kill from Tebbs, then won two more points to pull within 24-22.

But just when it appeared the Rangers would reverse the script of the previous two sets, they returned the ball into the antenna atop the net and that did it.

With the clock reading 7:22 p.m., the Capers’ 25-22 set victory gave them a 3-0 match triumph and at last, they had vanquished mighty Greely.

“At first, I didn’t know what happened, then it felt great,” Dadmun said.

“This means so much,” Haller said. “We lost a really tough match to Greely last year. This really means a lot to beat them in three sets. We really, really wanted this.”

“I was confident that we could beat them, but I didn’t think it would happen in three (sets),” added Boeckel. “We had to dig deep in the first two games. We dug a hole and came back. It was just a point at a time. I just told them to relax and to take a deep breath. We were reaching for balls and running into each other. We just had to play loose.”

Haller had eight blocks and seven kills. Dell’Aquila added seven kills, a block and nine service points, including three aces.

Dadmun finished with 20 assists and six service points.

“To put a freshman out there as a setter and to have her be as cool as she is and spread the ball out the way she does, I can’t wait to groom her for four years,” Boeckel said.

Brenneman had six service points and 27 digs, many of the spectacular variety. Junior Monika Scheindel had seven service points. Connelly had five service points, including three aces, as well as three blocks, and Bowe had three critical kills and two blocks.

“It was a team-wide performance, top to bottom,” Boeckel said. “There were kids who didn’t get in tonight, but if they didn’t work hard in practice, we wouldn’t have won this match.”

Greely was led by 16 assists and seven service points from Butland, nine kills, seven service points and five aces from Tebbs and nine assists, seven kills and three blocks from Cimino.

“We got overconfident and lost our passing (in the first set),” Hasch lamented. “The tide changed and we couldn’t find ourselves. I thought maybe we could still pull it out, but it wasn’t meant to be. Cape played really well. The covered really well. Things that were open in the first game, weren’t open any more. They’re a team to contend with.”

Two contenders

The playoffs beckon and both teams believe they have what it takes to go all the way.

Greely’s regular season is over and the Rangers expect to be the top seed in Class A, meaning someone will have to go to Greely and beat the Rangers to keep them out of the state match.

Greely can’t rely on homecourt to make the difference, it needs to return to its midseason form and quickly.

“I think we can make a run,” Hasch said. “I think we have the ability. Right now, it’s mental and we have to iron that out. A new season starts Monday. Who knows what can happen? Anybody can win it.”

Cape Elizabeth hopes to finish strong when it welcomes Lake Region Monday, then feels it has what it takes to go all the way.

“After losing last year’s seniors, I didn’t think we could go as far as we have so far, but we’re confident,” Brenneman said.

“We’re really confident about the playoffs,” said Haller. “The Heal Points don’t really matter. We know the best team is the one that goes out and fights for it. I don’t want this season to be over. We’re planning on going all the way to November 1st (the date of the Class A state match) and playing as long as we can.”

“I feel we can go to second (place),” Boeckel added. “I’m thinking we’ll be 2, 3 or 4. Going 2 would be amazing. I think we’re ready. The girls are poised after this big win.”

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

Cape Elizabeth junior Maddie Bowe kills the ball past Greely senior Lauren Weickert.

Greely junior Hannah Butland (2) and sophomore Lauren Weickert rise at the net to block a  shot.

Greely sophomore Kayley Cimino is met at the net by Cape Elizabeth junior Monica Dell’Aquila.

Cape Elizabeth junior Katie Connelly tips the ball over the net and the hands of Greely junior Hannah Butland.

Cape Elizabeth freshman Maggie Dadmun had a terrific game setting up her teammates at the net.

Cape Elizabeth junior Monika Scheindel keeps her eye on the ball.

Greely junior Alex Tebbs sends a shot over the net.

Greely senior Lauren Weickert handles a shot.

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Sidebar Elements

For the first time in program history, Cape Elizabeth’s volleyball team got to celebrate a victory over Greely Thursday night, something which (from left) junior Katie Connelly, junior Tess Haller and senior Monica Dell’Aquila are very excited about.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

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