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Cheverus senior Emma White is all smiles as she celebrates a point with senior Mary Jerome (4) and junior Maddie Williams during the Stags’ 3-0 win over Brunswick/Mt. Ararat in Thursday’s Class A state preliminary round playoff match.
Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Press Herald photos.
More photos below.
PORTLAND—Cheverus’ volleyball team believes it can accomplish big things this fall and after making history Thursday evening, the Stags aren’t done yet.
Hosting No. 10 Brunswick/Mt. Ararat in a Class A state preliminary round match at Keegan Gymnasium, seventh-seeded Cheverus not only won in the playoffs for the first time, it did so in quick fashion and it served notice that it won’t be an easy out against anyone.
The Stags had some nerves and took some time settling in during the first set, but with the score 19-17, they opened things up behind the serving of senior Madison Geiger and the hitting of senior Emma White to prevail, 25-19.
Brunswick/Mt. Ararat was within 15-14 in the second game before Cheverus steadily pulled away before another White kill and three more Geiger aces to win, 25-16.
The Stags ended any drama early in the third set, as sophomore Liza Rogers stepped to the service line and rattled off 10 consecutive points. Cheverus never looked back and when senior Abby Enck closed it out with an ace, the Stags had a 25-13 victory and took the match in three sets.
Cheverus improved to 9-6, ended Brunswick/Mt. Ararat’s season at 4-11 and advanced to play a quarterfinal round match at unbeaten Gorham (14-0) Saturday at 2 p.m.
“This is where we wanted to be,” said first-year Stags coach Andy Wimmer. “We expected to be here in October. We knew we had talent and we thought we’d be playing toward the end. We feel good about where we’re at and we want to look forward.”
The Cheverus varsity volleyball program began in 2012. The Stags reached the playoffs in 2013, 2015 and 2016 (when they posted their only other previous winning record), but each time, Cheverus was one-and-one in the postseason.
This fall, Wimmer took over as head coach and he proclaimed in the preseason that he believed the Stags could be as good as anyone in a deep and talented Class A. As the season progressed, Cheverus proved him right, taking defending state champion Scarborough to five sets and winning six of its final eight matches, including a five-set thriller at Kennebunk, to finish 8-6, good for the No. 7 seed in Class A.
Brunswick began its varsity program in 2016 and the Dragons didn’t win a match. Last year, Brunswick made the playoffs, but lost in three-sets to Bonny Eagle in the preliminary round. This fall, Brunswick became a co-op team with the addition of players from Mt. Ararat and the squad did just enough to be the last team in Class A to qualify for the postseason, earning the No. 10 seed at 4-10.
The teams didn’t meet this year. Cheverus beat Brunswick in three-sets in 2016, in the only prior encounter.
Thursday, the Stags took the next step for the first time and hinted that they’re not done yet.
The teams traded points early in the first set before Cheverus went on top to stay, 6-5, and behind the serving of junior Maddie Williams, went up by four. Brunswick/Mt. Ararat gt back within a point at 9-8, 10-9, 11-10 and 14-13, but senior Mary Jerome had a kill and junior Kristina Matkevitch served an ace. After Brunswick/Mt. Ararat got as close s 19-17, the next four points went to the Stags, capped by an ace from Geiger. After Brunswick/Mt. Ararat coach Kaili Phillips called timeout, her team got a point back before a service fault made it 24-18. After another point by the visitors, White delivered a kill to end the game, 25-19.
“That was typical for us,” White said. “We usually start out slow, but when we get a feel for things we come together. We tried a different rotation tonight, so we had to figure it out, then we started to roll with it.”
The second set was a similar story.
A block from junior Sabrina Cooper gave Brunswick/Mt. Ararat an early lead, but a service fault started a four-point run by Cheverus, which was culminated by a White kill. Brunswick/Mt. Ararat crept back to tie, 10-10, but a kill by Rogers put the Stags ahead to stay. An ace from White made it 14-11, but Brunswick/Mt. Ararat cut the deficit to 15-14 on a kill from junior Kassidy Dixon. With the score 18-16, the Stags got a point on a service fault, added another, then Geiger had successive aces for a 22-16 lead. After a White kill, Brunswick/Mt. Ararat hit the ball into the net and that set the stage for one more Geiger ace to end it, 25-16.
Any Brunswick/Mt. Ararat hopes were quickly dispelled when Rogers stepped to the service line to start the third game.
Rogers served up an ace to set the tone, then added nine more points in succession for a commanding 10-0 lead.
“Once we got the first two sets, our energy came up and we came together as a team,” Rogers said. “Our whole team was so excited in the third set. Everyone got so happy and that energy kept me up. I had a lot of homework, so it was important to finish it in (three sets).”
“Liza has done some amazing things,” Wimmer said. “When she does that, it doesn’t surprise me. She can be really aggressive with her serve. She changes it and puts it in different spots. She’s been an impact player.”
After Brunswick/Mt. Ararat ended the run, Cheverus got the next three points, capped by two aces from Enck, to make it 13-1. Brunswick/Mt. Ararat got the next three points, but after sophomore Jenna Booth’s tremendous effort to keep the ball off the floor led to a Stags’ point, Jerome had a kill to make it 17-4. A block and a kill from sophomore Chloe Coombs, sandwiched around a Cooper ace made it 17-7, but Cheverus never let Brunswick/Mt. Ararat make a serious run. With the score 22-13, the Stags got a kill from White and after a violation on the visitors set up match point, Enck delivered the punctuation mark with an ace and Cheverus had a 25-13 third game victory and took the match, 3-0, in a mere 58 minutes.
“This team is awesome,” Rogers said. “It’s so much fun. This team has so much chemistry.”
“We tried a new rotation and tried some new things tonight,” Wimmer said. “It’s something we liked. It put our stronger players in stronger positions.”
Rogers totaled 16 service points, Geiger had eight, Maddie Williams had 17 assists, Jerome added six kills and Matkevitch had five kills and five service points.
“We had games when we had seven, eight players and now we have 12, so having options is a great thing,” Wimmer said. “We have players ready to step up and make plays. We’ve grown a lot as a team this year.”
Junior captain Lauren Whitlock led the way for Brunswick/Mt. Ararat with nine assists.
“I’m very happy with the effort,” said Phillips. “They had a strong server who picked us apart. We couldn’t get the ball back.
“It’s promising, but we’re not satisfied with a first round loss again. We’re losing four, so we have most of our lineup coming back.”
Cheverus lost in straight-sets at Gorham Oct. 4, but didn’t have Jerome for that match and is much stronger team now.
In the 2016 state preliminary round, in the teams’ only prior playoff encounter, the Rams beat the Stags in three-sets.
Cheverus knows its task is daunting, but the Stags will travel to Gorham confident, knowing they have nothing to lose.
“It feels great to make it farther than we have before and now, we have to keep our positivity and energy up,” Rogers said. “Now that we’ve seen (Gorham) play, I think we have a chance.”
“We have a small team, so keeping everyone engaged will make a big difference,” White said. “We have Mary back and I think we have a chance.”
“We fought the first time,” Wimmer added. “They pushed us and we pushed back on their Senior Night. We were missing Mary and we’ve grown every day since. We want to be our best at the end. We know we have the ability. We hope to send the message we want to send.”
Cheverus junior Kristina Matkevitch goes up for a kill as Brunswick/Mt. Ararat junior Sabrina Cooper defends.
Brunswick/Mt. Ararat junior Kassidy Dixon handles a shot.
Cheverus senior Emma White soars above the crowd for a kill.