(Ed. Note: For the complete Cape Elizabeth-Greely match story, with additional photos, see theforecaster.net)
You’ll never see another title run like this one.
Cape Elizabeth’s volleyball team, a program not even on the radar until last fall, became the Class A state champion last week courtesy of three match victories in which each was more improbable than the last.
The Capers were 3-2 at one point this season and had to reschedule a couple matches due to renovation of the school’s gym floor, but by season’s end managed to clear every obstacle.
Even some of their own volition.
Cape Elizabeth won its final nine regular season matches, but its 12-2 record only gave it the fifth seed, meaning the Capers had to go on the road to reach the Promised Land.
After surviving fourth-ranked Scarborough in a five-set thriller (rallying from down, 2-1) in the quarterfinals, Cape Elizabeth went to the state’s gold standard, nine-time champion Greely, the number one seed, for the semifinals Wednesday and almost had their season come to a very quick end.
In the first ever playoff meeting between the schools who split two regular season matches, the Capers barely put up a fight in the first and second sets, not leading for a single point, as they went down to defeats of 25-13 and 25-12.
“I think we came out tight,” Capers coach Sarah Boeckel said. “Greely was impressive the entire match, especially early. They passed well, they were blocking, they were hitting.”
Then, in the third set, Cape Elizabeth stared match point in the eye on three difference occasions.
The Capers didn’t flinch.
Cape Elizabeth managed to rally and take that set, 28-26.
“After the third game, I thought I could fly,” junior captain Maddie Bowe said. “It felt so great.”
“I think we walked into the gym scared,” senior captain Monica Dell’Aquila said. “I was scared for my senior year to be over. We came out for the third game and I was so fired up. We all turned on a switch at that point. We felt like we had new life.”
The fourth set could have gone either way when it was tied at 22-22, but the Capers escaped again when Bowe somehow reverse hit the ball over the net for the final point of a 25-23 victory.
“At that point, it was like starting over,” Bowe said. “We had a lot of energy and emotion.”
“I said to the girls, ‘New match,'” said Boeckel. “I knew we’d put up a fight. We’ve been pretty successful in fifth games, but usually, we don’t lose the first two. I said, ‘We’ve been here before. We know how to win.’ I knew if we came out early and were aggressive and put points on the board, we’d be OK.”
Then, in the first-team-to-15-points, winner-take-all fifth set, Cape Elizabeth managed to do something it hadn’t done all postseason, take the first point and it never looked back, going on to a 15-11 victory, capped by a Bowe kill, to take the set and the match in five games.
“I thought it was going to get blocked,” Bowe said, of the final shot. “I just wanted it to get it over and make them make the play. I was shocked it went in.”
“We have no idea why we dig holes for ourselves, but we fight to the end,” said junior Tess Haller. “We want this so badly. I was starting to feel like we weren’t going to pull it out, but we cleared our minds and we knew we had to fight for it.”
“The first two games we were a bit off, but after the third game we realized we had it,” junior Monika Scheindel added. “The team just has incredible spirit. We fight for everything. We dug a deep hole, but we came out of it. It was such a team effort. We always say that the first team who gets to 10 (in the fifth set) can take it. When we did, we knew we could pull it off. I’ve never felt such excitement in my life. We’re just fighters. I’m incredibly proud.”
Saturday, Cape Elizabeth went to Biddeford High School to meet No. 3 Falmouth in the state final. The Capers lost their lone match with the Yachtsmen this fall, 3-0 (14-25, 22-25, 17-25), Sept. 26 in Falmouth. The teams met in last year’s semifinals and Cape Elizabeth let a 2-1 lead slip away in an agonizing 3-2 setback.
The defending champion Yachtsmen won the first set, 25-22, and the second, 25-18, and if the Capers were panicking over this particular case of deja vu, they didn’t show it.
As it turned out, Cape Elizabeth had the Yachtsmen right where it wanted them, taking the third and fourth sets by identical 25-22 scores.
There was little doubt the Capers would finish the job and for the third straight playoff match, Cape Elizabeth prevailed, 3-2, when it took the fifth set, 15-8.
“I can’t believe we pulled off what we did,” Boeckel said. “What an amazing run and an even better championship. My girls are just fighters and so mentally strong. I’m so proud of them. It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had as a player or a coach. I’ve won championships and my high school team was ranked number one in the country, but what these girls did was unbelievable. It’s something I’ll never forget.
“This title means so much. It’s for all the girls who started the program and helped build it. There were a lot of former players at the (state match) and they felt it every bit as much as this year’s players.”
The Capers finished 15-2 and despite graduating Dell’Aquila and two others, might just find themselves back at the pinnacle again in 2015.
“We’ll be in a whole new territory next year,” Boeckel said. “Last year and this, we became a team others were a little more nervous to play than before. We became a team to watch. We became champions.
“Next year, we’ll work on becoming even more mentally and physically strong. We need to believe this wasn’t a one-time thing. We need to keep growing. “
They made it as difficult as possible, but Cape Elizabeth’s volleyball team got to celebrate its first Class A championship Saturday afternoon, erasing a 2-0 deficit to beat Falmouth in five memorable sets.
Photos courtesy Eric Tirrell.
Cape Elizabeth’s volleyball team raises the Gold Ball to the heavens following Saturday’s championship match win.