Deering junior Avery Donovan screams with joy and celebrates with senior Kaylee Helmick during the Rams’ 3-0 win over Portland Tuesday night.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
PORTLAND—The Deering and Portland volleyball programs are still in their relative infancy, but they sure know how to put on a show.
Tuesday evening, the second-year varsity teams met for the only time this autumn and while the match was decided in three sets, the separation between the rivals was razor thin.
In the first game, the host Rams, who lost their opener to Bonny Eagle, erased a 20-18 deficit and went on to a 25-22 victory behind the stellar serving of junior Dianne Dervis and sophomore Maddie Broda.
The Bulldogs shot to leads of 7-1 and 16-10 in the second set, but Deering refused to buckle and even though Portland twice held set point, the Rams hung tough and ran off the final four points to win, 26-24, as senior Angeliha Bou capped the comeback with an ace.
Deering appeared ready to quickly close out the third game, taking a 4-0 lead and eventually going up, 18-11, on an ace from Dervis, but Portland wouldn’t go quietly, roaring back to go ahead, 22-21, only to see the Rams score the final four points and close out the match when senior Kaylee Helmick served up an ace for a 25-22 victory.
Deering evened its record at 1-1, improved to 3-0 all-time against Portland and dropped the Bulldogs to 1-1 in the process.
“It was a very tough match,” said Dervis. “(Portland) played very well. We were prepared enough to be able to come back. We know we have the ability to do what we need to do. They’re a big rival. We didn’t play our best (against Bonny Eagle), but we showed what we can do today.”
A year ago, Deering and Portland simply wanted to learn and be as competitive as possible.
The Bulldogs won just one match, but set the stage to be much stronger this time around, as evidenced by Thursday’s 3-0 (25-14, 25-15, 25-19) home win over Cony in the season opener.
The Rams had a fantastic debut season, going 7-7 and just missing the playoffs, leading some to anoint them as a top contender this fall, but Deering suffered a 3-1 (24-26, 25-22, 13-25, 18-25) loss at Bonny Eagle in its first match Friday.
Last season, the Rams won both meetings between the city rivals by 3-0 scores (25-15, 25-5 and 25-14 in the season opener, then 29-27, 25-14, 25-8 the second time around).
Tuesday, in front of a boisterous crowd, Deering won in straight sets again, but it was anything but easy.
Very few points in the first set were decided at the net. Instead, servers took center stage, as the Rams produced eight aces and the Bulldogs five.
Deering erased an 8-7 deficit and went ahead, 14-9, forcing Portland coach Joe Russo to call timeout. It worked, as the Bulldogs rallied to go ahead, 18-16, on a kill from junior Shayla Eubanks. Rams coach Larry Nichols then produced some timeout magic of his own, refocusing his charges, who scored four straight points, highlighted by a kill from Dervis and three aces from Broda, who seemed to have her own cheering section at times.
Portland tied the score, 20-20, but after Deering went ahead by one, Dervis served another ace, then had a kill to make it 23-20. The Bulldogs got the next two points to make things interesting, but a kill from Helmick, followed by an ace from junior Avery Donovan, produced a 25-22 victory.
Dervis had four service points, including three aces, and a pair of kills in the first game, while Helmick had three kills and Broda added four aces.
Portland came agonizingly close to its first set victory over Deering in the second game, but couldn’t close it out, due in large part to some highlight reel plays by the Rams.
Six straight service points from junior Sophia Silva, including four aces, helped the Bulldogs open up a 7-1 lead. Deering crept back within 7-6, but Portland junior Jess Brown, the softball standout, served up a couple aces to help make it 11-6. The Bulldogs twice pushed the lead back to six points, 13-7, and 15-9, before a Nichols timeout helped the Rams rally within 17-16 on three straight aces from Broda. A Russo timeout settled down his charges and a kill from junior Veronica Iris-Bates and a Silva kill pushed the lead back to three. Deering rallied to tie it on a kill from Helmick, then forged ties at 20-20 and 21-21, but a kill from Eubanks and and block from junior Ashley Chadbourne made it 23-21. A Portland service fault brought the hosts back within one, but the Rams returned the favor, placing the Bulldogs a mere point away from evening the match.
It never came.
Just when it appeared Portland was going to score the winning point, the Bulldogs were called for carrying the ball. A kill from Dervis then tied the score. Portland followed by hitting the ball into the net and Bou’s ace capped the stirring comeback, giving Deering a 26-24 victory in the set and a 2-0 match lead.
“Those points were momentum-builders,” Nichols said. “It was great to see the girls do it.”
Dervis had six points in the second set, while Helmick added four kills. Silva had seven service points, including five aces, but it went for naught.
Often when a team loses a set in such painful fashion, it goes quietly, but in a positive sign, the Bulldogs fought to the bitter end in the third game.
A kill from Donovan and a pair of Broda aces helped the Rams go up, 4-0. A Donovan ace made it 9-4 and an ace from Dervis pushed the lead to 18-11, but Portland got three straight points, capped by an ace from sophomore Reagan Brown, to force Nichols to call timeout. Deering then went up, 21-15, but a kill from junior Abby Krieckhaus sparked a dramatic rally, Krieckhaus then went to the service line and produced six straight points, capped by an ace, which made it 22-21 Portland.
That’s as close as the Bulldogs would get, however, as a service fault tied the score, senior Cindy Hoang produced consecutive kills to push the Rams to the brink and Helmick closed it out with an ace, giving Deering a 25-22 win and a 3-0 match victory.
“It was nervewracking, said Helmick. “It was an exciting match for both of us. We were both fired up. We stayed relaxed and worked together.”
“It was back and forth, which is what you want and what you don’t want,” Nichols said. “We had a couple chase-downs where I thought we were done, but we wrestled it out. It’s a big deal because we had goals going into the season and if we lost again, we’d have to re-examine. Now, we can keep improving.”
Deering was led by Dervis’ 11 service points (including five aces).
“I’m new to Deering and I’m happy to be here,” said Dervis, who played for Cheverus last fall. “We have a great program going. We’re doing amazing things and we’re really connecting.”
“(Dervis is) a firecracker,” Nichols said. “She gets those balls. I have to calm her down sometimes.”
Helmick added eight kills and Broda had nine aces.
“I have the utmost confidence in Kaylee,” Nichols said. “She’s a tough competitor. Volleyball, Tiddlywinks, Checkers, I’d take her in anything. And she’s a good mentor. It’s good having her around. Broda makes others better. She exponentially improves everyone.”
Portland was paced by 12 service points (including seven aces) from Silva, six service points and three kills from Krieckhaus and five assists and three kills from Eubanks.
The Bulldogs ultimately fell eight points short, but had a lot to be proud of.
“In the big picture, that was an amazing display of volleyball by two teams who are new,” Russo said. “Deering came up with three or four critical hustle plays, plays I thought we had to win. I don’t know how they did it. They dove and kept it alive. That was really the difference. We played great. The girls played their positions and the subs came in and played terrific. It’s a very technical game besides winning with skill. The faults, net faults, double hits, hitting the net, it all adds up.”
With 15 teams qualifying for the Class A playoffs this autumn, both teams have legitimate postseason aspirations.
Portland hopes to get back in the win column when it hosts first-year program Brunswick Thursday, then welcomes Bonny Eagle Tuesday of next week.
“It’s no fun losing, but we can build on this,” Russo said. “If we keep improving, we’ll have a fun year.”
Deering is at Gardiner Thursday, then returns home Tuesday to face York.
“We’re just having fun,” Helmick said. “Our goal is to make playoffs. We’re ready to show everyone what we’ve got. We can still do better communicating and knowing where we need to be on the court at all times.”
“It’s nice that elite coaches are mentioning us, but we’re not an elite team,” Nichols said. “We’re a work in progress. That was an extra weight and that added some extra pressure. For us, it’s all about getting better. As long as that happens, the other goals will happen as a result.”
Portland junior Abby Krieckhaus lines up a serve.
Portland junior Veronica Iris-Bates goes up for a block against Deering junior Avery Donovan.
Deering junior Dianne Dervis handles a shot.
Portland junior Ashley Chadbourne and Deering senior Cindy Hoang meet at the net.
Portland junior Sophia Silva sets the ball.
Deering junior Avery Donovan goes up for a kill as Portland junior Jess Brown looks on.
Deering coach Larry Nichols makes a point.
Portland coach Joe Russo gives instructions between sets.