CUMBERLAND—If the parents and fans of the Cape Elizabeth volleyball team have no remaining fingernails, are experiencing heart palpitations or have suddenly seen their hair turn gray, there’s an easy explanation.
The Capers are stretching their very sanity to the limit.
Match after match after match.
The sleeping giant almost didn’t awaken in time Wednesday evening in an even-better-than-it-was-billed Class A semifinal round showdown at the state’s most storied program, Greely.
Cape Elizabeth barely put up a fight in the first and second sets, not leading for a single point as it went down to defeats of 25-13 and 25-12.
Then, with its season and championship hopes on the line, the Capers played much better in the third game, but on three different occasions, they stared match point in the eye.
And didn’t flinch.
Cape Elizabeth managed to rally and take that set, 28-26, and suddenly the sleeping giant had stirred.
And this giant is awfully tough to slay once it’s come to life.
The fourth set could have gone either way when it was tied at 22-22, but the Capers escaped again when junior captain Maddie Bowe somehow reverse hit the ball over the net for the final point of a 25-23 victory.
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.
The never-say-die Capers extended their win streak to 11 matches, improved to 14-2, ended the valiant and proud Rangers’ season at 13-3 and best of all, advanced to the state final for the first time where they will battle No. 3 Falmouth (13-3) Saturday at 1 p.m., at Biddeford High School.
“We’re so used to coming from behind,” said Bowe. “It was all or nothing. We know not to give up at any point and we really didn’t. It feels amazing.”
The fact that Cape Elizabeth and Greely made it to the Class A “Final Four” came as little surprise, but both teams have had their share of obstacles to overcome.
The Capers only won three of their first five matches and were nomads for a time as their homecourt was being redone, but Cape Elizabeth came to life, beat Greely and Scarborough for the first time and ended the season on a nine-match win streak. Still, the Capers only garnered the fifth seed in Class A and had to go to Scarborough for the quarterfinals. What resulted was one of the great matches the state has ever produced and Cape Elizabeth rallied to prevail, 3-2, Saturday afternoon.
The Rangers, meanwhile, looked unbeatable through 11 matches, then dropped 3-0 decisions to Falmouth and Greely at the end. Even though some seeds of doubt may have been sewn, as the top seed, the Rangers had no problem with No. 8 Gorham in the quarterfinal, winning in three sets.
On Sept. 12, Greely swept visiting Cape Elizabeth (25-21, 25-17, 25-21), but on Oct. 16, the Capers returned the favor (27-25, 25-23, 25-22).
Prior to Wednesday, the schools, who have such a rich playoff tradition in so many sports, had never met in a postseason volleyball tilt, but they sure produced a memorable Act I.
Greely set the tone on the first point when sophomore standout Kayley Cimino set up junior Alex Tebbs for a kill. A block from senior Lauren Weickert, two aces from junior Hannah Butland and a kill from sophomore Molly Chapin gave the Rangers an immediate 5-0 lead.
Cape Elizabeth got a couple points, including a kill from senior captain Monica Dell’Aquila, but Greely took a 7-2 lead on an ace from Tebbs. The Capers then rattled off four consecutive points, including kills from juniors Katie Connelly and Tess Haller. A block from Bowe pulled Cape Elizabeth within 9-8, but Cimino answered with a kill. An ace from junior Monika Scheindel pulled the Capers within 11-10, but they would draw no closer.
An ace from senior Emily Buchanan and a Weickert kill made it 14-10. After Cape Elizabeth got a point back, Tebbs had a kill, Chapin a block and Tebbs another kill to force Capers coach Sarah Boeckel to call timeout.
it didn’t help, as Weickert served up an ace, Tebbs had back-to-back kills, Weickert had another ace and Butland added a block to cap an 8-0 run, making the score 22-11. Consecutive kills from Dell’Aquila gave Cape Elizabeth momentary hope, but Greely closed out its 25-13 first set victory when Tebbs and Cimino had back-to-back kills.
In first game, Tebbs had six kills, Butland six service points and eight assists and Weickert seven service points.
Cape Elizabeth was left shaking its head.
“We have slow starts a lot,” Bowe said. “They were playing amazingly. Their passing was outstanding. We couldn’t get passes off. It was hard to run our offense. I think we were also a little flat.”
“I think we came out tight,” Boeckel said. “We felt so great Saturday. It was so emotional. It took a little out of us. Greely was impressive the entire match, especially early. They passed well, they were blocking, they were hitting.”
The Rangers would continue to roll in the second set.
While the Capers managed to force ties at 1-1 and 2-2, they never took the lead. A Tebbs kill and an Weickert ace opened up a 12-5 advantage. Kills from Tebbs and Cimino and a Butland ace made it 17-6. A pair of Weickert kills then brought the curtain down on a 25-12 triumph, meaning Greely was just one set away from advancing.
A set the Rangers are still seeking.
Cape Elizabeth began to stir early in the third set. While Greely went up early on kills from Butland and Cimino, the Capers took a 3-2 advantage, their first of the entire match, when Dell’Aquila served an ace.
“In the third game, I said to my assistant, ‘I just want a lead,'” said Boeckel.
Greely went back on top on a Cimino ace and eventually opened up a 12-8 lead on a Cimino kill after a nice save by Butland, but Haller sandwiched a pair of kills around one from Dell’Aquila to pull the visitors within 12-11. Greely got an ace from Tebbs and went back on top by three, but Cape Elizabeth got the next five points, highlighted by a Dell’Aquila ace and a Connelly block, to go ahead, 16-14. It didn’t last, as the Rangers retook the lead, 19-18 and extended it to 21-18, causing Boeckel to call timeout.
Greely continued to creep closer to victory, as a kill from Tebbs made it 23-20 Rangers. A kill by Dell’Aquila was followed by another Capers’ point, but a Cimino kill put the hosts up, 24-22, and the hosts needed just one point to bring a shockingly quick end to the evening.
But Cape Elizabeth had other ideas.
First, Scheindel had her biggest kill of the season to provide hope. The Rangers then hit the ball out (they lobbied for a call that the ball deflected off a Caper but were rebuffed) and it was 24-24. When Haller had a block, Cape Elizabeth was on the brink of victory, but a service fault followed by a Weickert block after a long point made the score 26-25 Greely (a team must win by two points after 24) and for the third time, the Capers were facing a premature end to their season.
The team’s big guns wouldn’t let it happen.
First, Haller saved the season with a kill. Then, Bowe had a kill. Finally, Connelly soared for a block and Cape Elizabeth had the game, 28-26, had life and just like that, had a little confidence too, still down in sets, 2-1, but knowing that suddenly the Rangers faced a little pressure.
“After the third game, I thought I could fly,” Bowe said. “It felt so great.”
“I think we walked into the gym scared,” 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 game was tight throughout.
For the fourth straight set, Greely got the first point, then teams were tied at 1-1, 4-4, 5-5 and 6-6. A pair of Tebbs kills and another from Chapin opened up an 11-7 Rangers’ lead, but the Capers wouldn’t buckle. They pulled within one point at 12-11, 15-14 and 16-15, then tied the game, 16-16. Greely went back on top, but Dell’Aquila tied it with a kill. After Tebbs put the Rangers ahead with a kill, a service fault, followed by an ace from Cape Elizabeth junior Lydia Brenneman put the visitors ahead, 19-18. Out of a timeout, the hosts pulled even, but Connelly had a kill. Cimino tied the score, 20-20, with a kill, but the Capers got the next two points. Greely then got kills from Chapin and Buchanan and the score was 22-22. Out of a timeout, Greely served the ball into the net. A shot sent wide gave Cape Elizabeth another point and it needed just one more to push the match to the limit. After Haller’s serve was barely long for a fault, Bowe came up with her circus shot and the Capers had a 25-23 victory.
“Once we gave them that (third) game, they had all the confidence in the world,” Hasch said. “Once they got confident, they didn’t do anything wrong. Cape’s a great team. They returned every ball.”
The Capers were feeling good entering the decisive set.
“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.”
Every point is magnified in a fifth set and finally, for the first time in 10 sets this postseason, Cape Elizabeth took the first point as Connelly had a kill. The Rangers tied the score on a kill from Tebbs, but a service fault put the Capers ahead to stay. After Connelly had an ace, Chapin answered with one, but Haller had a kill, then an ace to make it 5-2.
“We definitely had to take advantage of their missed serves and we had to control our own,” Haller said. “It’s a downer when you have a good rally and you miss a serve. I tried to stay in the zone.”
“The way we handled the fifth game was we really wanted to get a lead and hold it,” said Dell’Aquila. “That was really important.”
Greely got a kill from Weickert, but couldn’t keep the momentum as another service fault made the score 6-3. Then, after producing so few aces during the course of the match, Cape Elizabeth’s service game helped put it away.
Scheindel had an ace for a 7-3 lead. After the Rangers got consecutive points to pull within 7-5, they again faulted. After the Capers got the next point to go up 9-5, Hasch called timeout. Tebbs got a point back for Greely with a kill, but again, the Rangers gave it right back with a fault. Cape Elizabeth hit the ball into the net, but Haller had a kill and the lead was 11-7.
When Chapin had consecutive kills, Greely appeared to have momentum, down just 11-9, but Scheindel saved the day with a timely kill to restore a three-point edge.
“I was just trying to get it over because I knew I’d hit it into the net a few times,” Scheindel said. “I was pretty down on myself, but I got it to drop.”
“Monika had some huge points in the fourth and fifth games,” Boeckel said.
When the Rangers hit the ball out on the ensuing point, the Capers were up 13-9 and were close enough to taste a trip to states, but Greely made sure they had to sweat for it.
First, Cimino had a kill, then Tebbs hit a shot which caught the top of the net, hung there momentarily and dropped to cut the deficit to 13-11.
But that would be the final point of the Rangers’ season.
A net violation pushed Cape Elizabeth to the brink and after coming so far from behind, the Capers weren’t about to mess around and after 104 palpitating minutes, Haller served the ball over and Bowe’s kill brought the curtain down on the 15-11 set and the 3-2 match victory.
“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.”
“At the beginning of the season, after timeouts, I’d miss my serve, but now, I know I just focus,” Haller said. “I just had to get the ball over in a good spot. (Maddie) made a smart play on that. She didn’t try to crank it. She just tipped it. I was really excited. We have no idea why we dig holes for ourselves, but we fight to the end. 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,” Scheindel said. “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.”
“I thought Saturday was an impressive match, but this was the greatest thing,” Boeckel added. “To go down 2-0 and come back and win? It was over. I don’t know how we did it, but this is what we do. We fight and we fight and we fight and we never think we’re going to lose.”
Haller, like her team, started slowly, then erupted a stuffed the stat sheet with a dozen kills, two blocks, 10 service points and two aces. Dell’Aquila produced 12 service points, two aces and seven kills in the penultimate match of her career. Connelly finished with seven kills and three blocks, Bowe had five kills and Scheindel four kills and two aces.
Then there was freshman setter Maggie Dadmun, who continued to be an oasis of calm amid a sea of angst, not only producing 28 assists, but feeding different teammates at different points on the floor, seemingly always delivering the perfect pass. If the assists weren’t enough, Dadmun also had seven service points.
For years, Greely always found a way to win close sets and tight matches come playoff-time, but this time, the Rangers let one slip away and for the first time in their storied history, they dropped a home match in the playoffs and failed in consecutive years to bring home a championship.
“We made too many mistakes,” Hasch lamented. “You can’t make mistakes. After we were up 2-0, I told them that we hadn’t won anything yet. We missed five serves in the fifth game. You can’t give a team five points in a 15-point game. We’ve been fighting this intensity for a long time. I thought we had it solved, but apparently we didn’t.”
Statistically, Greely was paced by Butland (37 assists, 11 service points, three aces), Tebbs (19 kills, six service points, four aces), Cimino (14 assists, 12 kills) and Weickert (11 service points, seven kills, five aces). Chapin had 10 kills and a block, Buchanan added 11 service points and senior Audrey Mann finished with seven service points.
Coming into the 2014 campaign, the Rangers weren’t as highly touted as usual and had a lot of question marks, but they again earned the top seed and went deep into the playoffs.
“I think the girls really improved over the season and brought it together, but you need more than seven kids who can play,” Hasch said. “That hurt us a little bit. I think the subs learned an awful lot this year. They’ll make big contributions next year.”
Graduation will hurt.
“We lose Lauren, Audrey and Emily,” Hasch said. “We have to find some players to fill the holes.”
Cape Elizabeth will have its hands full versus Falmouth Saturday afternoon. The Yachtsmen have a tremendous setter in Megan Tammaro and several tall girls who can wreak havoc at the net.
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.
“Last year, we buckled and I think it was a learning experience,” Boeckel said. “We know how to win now.”
Cape Elizabeth’s ready to make some history, although if the script holds, it probably won’t accomplish anything easily.
“I really think we can take it,” Haller said. “We’ve come this far. Why stop?”
“We’re so excited for states,” Scheindel said. “We have to cover the blocks and work the middle of their court.”
“We need to be really disciplined,” said Dell’Aquila. “That’s been a theme of our season all year. I’m very excited.”
“We’ll see how it goes,” Bowe said. “This is everything we dreamed of.”
“I think if we can come at them quickly, we can beat them, but they’re a great team,” Boeckel added.
Cape Elizabeth junior Lydia Brenneman handles a shot.
Greely junior Hannah Butland sets the ball.
Cape Elizabeth freshman Maggie Dadmun (14) and junior Maddie Bowe try to block the shot of Greely junior Alex Tebbs.
Greely sophomore Molly Chapin, who had an excellent match, blocks a shot at the net as sophomore Kayley Cimino joins the fray.
Cape Elizabeth junior Katie Connelly gets her hands on a shot.
Greely senior Lauren Weickert produces a kill.
Cape Elizabeth junior Monika Scheindel (with help from imposing classmate Tess Haller) soars at the net for a block.
Greely junior Alex Tebbs excelled again at the net Wednesday.
Greely senior Lauren Weickert blocks the shot of Cape Elizabeth junior Tess Haller.
Greely senior Emily Buchanan celebrates after the Rangers win a key point.
Cape Elizabeth senior Monica Dell’Aquila is overcome with emotion after the match as she’s congratulated by junior Tess Haller.
Cape Elizabeth junior captain Maddie Bowe screams with joy during a post-match celebration after the Capers erased a two sets to none deficit to stun Greely, 3-2, in the Class A semifinals Wednesday night. Cape Elizabeth will look to win its first championship Saturday when it battles defending champion Falmouth in the Class A Final.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.