Falmouth knocks off defending champion Scarborough in four sets

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Falmouth junior Rose Riversmith is all smiles as she celebrates a point with sophomores Annika Hester, left, Katie Phillips and Hillary Bouchard during the Yachtsmen’s 3-1 victory over defending Class A champion Scarborough Thursday night.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

FALMOUTH—Falmouth’s volleyball team might be young and inexperienced, but are the Yachtsmen ever full of promise and so far this fall, they have lived up to their promise and become something more.

Unbeatable.

Thursday evening, Falmouth hosted defending Class A state champion Scarborough in its biggest test to date and with the exception of one set, the Yachtsmen had the better of the play in a statement-making victory.

Falmouth erased an early 3-0 deficit in the first game and rolled to a 25-10 victory behind the serving and powerful hitting of sophomore Annika Hester and the serving acumen of junior Holly Barney and sophomore Hillary Bouchard.

The Red Storm made it tougher in the second set, but the Yachtsmen made enough plays to prevail, 25-20.

Pushed to the brink, Scarborough, to no one’s surprise, battled back in the third game, as the passing of sophomore Mayne Gwyer helped produce a 25-17 victory.

The Red Storm, who had won three five-set matches in four previous outings this season, hoped to extend the match to a winner-take-all fifth game, but Falmouth pulled away behind the passing of sophomore Katie Phillips and Hester’s power and Hester’s 17th and final kill produced a 25-18 victory, giving the Yachtsmen a 3-1 match win.

Falmouth improved to 4-0 on the season and dropped Scarborough 4-1 in the process.

“We were expecting them to come back, so we had to stay smart, keep talking and be aggressive,” said Hester.

Collision course

Both teams played for state titles a year ago and each is on the short list of championship favorites this fall.

Falmouth, which lost to Cape Elizabeth, 3-0, in the Class B state match last year, has moved up to Class A this season and under new coach Larry Nichols, the erstwhile Deering coach, won its first three matches in straight sets, over visiting Greely and Cony and Tuesday, at South Portland.

Scarborough is coming off its second Class A crown in three years and even though Jon Roberts has departed as coach, the Red Storm remain in good hands under Kim Stoddard. Scarborough opened with five-set wins at home over Deering and at Windham. After downing visiting Bonny Eagle in straight sets, Scarborough was pushed to five games again Tuesday and again prevailed, this time at Cheverus.

“It’s been an adjustment, but I have a great group of kids who have made it really easy for me,” Stoddard said. “They work hard in practice. They’re fun to coach and they’re always trying to get better.”

Last year, the Red Storm beat the visiting Yachtsmen in a four-set battle.

This time around, in front of a large and vocal crowd, the teams played four sets again, with Falmouth this time prevailing.

The first three points of the match went to the visitors, capped by an ace from Gwyer, but a pair of Hester aces helped the Yachtsmen score the next five. Up, 8-6, Falmouth scored four points in a row to force Stoddard to call timeout, but Phillips added a kill. After Scarborough got back to 13-8 on a kill from senior Catherine Shaw, the Yachtsmen went on a 5-0 run, highlighted by two Hester kills. The Red Storm got within 19-10 on a kill from Gwyer, but Hester had a block, junior Rose Riversmith had a kill and Hester closed it out at the service line, as Scarborough hit the ball out on the last point and Falmouth took the first game, 25-10.

Hester had eight service points, including three aces, as well as three kills and a block in the first set.

The Red Storm took a quick 7-2 lead in the second game, thanks in part to kills from freshman Gwen Dorsey and sophomore Shaelyn Thornton, and when Thornton served up an ace, the advantage was 10-4, but the Yachtsmen would creep back. After a kill from Shaw made it 11-6 Scarborough, the next seven points went to the hosts, as Hester had two kills and senior Kiera O’Brien added one. The Red Storm got back within 13-12, but Phillips had a kill and an ace and Falmouth went up by four. After Scarborough cut the deficit to 17-16, Riversmith had a kill, junior Gretchen Barney served up an ace and after the Yachtsmen won a long point, they were up by four. The Red Storm got as close as 22-19, but a Phillips block was followed by a Scarborough shot that went into the net to put Falmouth on the brink. The Red Storm got a point back, but they hit the ball into the net again and the Yachtsmen went up two games by virtue of a 25-20 victory.

Seven service points from Bouchard, four assists from Phillips and three Hester kills helped Falmouth prevail.

The Yachtsmen didn’t want to give the defending champs any life in the third set, but sure enough, Scarborough bounced back and made things interesting.

Falmouth led early on a kill and an ace from Hester, but the Red Storm got two kills from senior Amelia Hardy and another from Thornton to go up, 7-4. An ace from Hardy stretched the lead to 10-5, but the Yachtsmen crept back within one, 12-11. A Gwyer kill and two Gwyer aces opened it up again and a kill from Thornton gave Scarborough an 18-13 advantage. Falmouth wasn’t able to string together successive points and after a Thornton ace set up set point, the Yachtsmen had a communication breakdown and watched as the ball hit the floor to complete the Red Storm’s 25-17 game victory, cutting Falmouth’s lead to 2-1.

“There would have been panic if there were unforced errors,” Nichols said. “Scarborough attacks and plays great defense, but we were soft with the ball.”

Gwyer had five assists and three aces in that set.

Scarborough was eager to take part in yet another five-set match, but it wasn’t to be, as the Yachtsmen led almost throughout in the fourth game to put it away.

A Riversmith ace set the tone and Hester followed with a pair of kills, but the Red Storm rallied to lead, 5-4. The next four points went to the hosts, however, and gave them the lead for good. Consecutive kills from Hester and an ace from senior Summer Spiegel forced Stoddard to call timeout, but it didn’t help, as Phillips had a block and Spiegel served another ace for a 13-6 advantage. A kill by Shaw drew Scarborough back within four, but again, Falmouth opened it up, taking a 20-11 lead. The Red Storm cut the deficit to 21-15 behind an ace from junior Anna Gardner, but a block by O’Brien and an errant Scarborough shot put the Yachtsmen up, 24-15. Scarborough fought off three match points, however, as Hardy had a kill, Falmouth hit the ball into the net and Hester crushed a potential match-ending kill long and out of bounds.

“I was a little too excited,” Hester said. “I need to work on taking smarter shots.”

Hester didn’t miss on her next chance, however, as Phillips set her up and Hester pounded the ball over the net and off a Scarborough defender. The ball ricocheted off the ceiling then landed on the floor and the Yachtsmen had won the fourth game, 25-18, and the match, 3-1.

“It felt good when they couldn’t return that one, “Hester said. “I did it for the team.”

“We’re still trying to figure out we are after losing seven seniors last year,” Nichols said. “A couple girls have match experience, but the rest of them are learning to play. It’s been like a raw clay. There are good pieces, they just have to figure out where they fit. We’re a different team every week, which is exciting and terrifying at the same time.” 

Hester’s 17 kills led the way. She also contributed 10 service points, including four aces.

“I try to be positive and help people out,” Hester said. “I’ve had a lot of good coaching in the past. The sets were really good and we communicated really well.”

Phillips had 18 assists, eight service points and five kills.

Spiegel had eight assists and five service points.

Riversmith added three kills and four blocks and O’Brien finished with five blocks.

Bouchard finished with a dozen service points and Barney added eight.

“I can’t say enough about Katie and Annika,” Nichols said. “They’re steady. Summer Spiegel is learning the system and has been very coachable. Hillary Bouchard plays great defense and gets the serve in. She’s a calming factor.”

Scarborough was paced by Gwyer, who finished with 15 assists and seven service points, including three aces.

Shaw had nine kills, Hardy seven and Thornton six, to go with seven service points. Anna Gardner added nine service points.

“That was our team tonight,” Stoddard said. “We showed up and played amazing together. Falmouth is a great team. They have some good players, but we’re not afraid of them and that showed tonight. The biggest difference between the first set at the end was us working as a team and being aggressive with what we do and not letting the ball hit the floor.”

Keep fighting

Scarborough looks to bounce back next Tuesday when Massabesic pays a visit. The Red Storm are at Marshwood two days later. Home showdowns versus Greely and Cape Elizabeth follow.

“We have to continue to work together, even when we’re down,” Stoddard said. “If we put that together with the energy we have, we can be unstoppable.”

Falmouth looks to stay undefeated Tuesday, but it won’t be easy, as the Yachtsmen look to avenge last year’s ouster at Cape Elizabeth. A home test with dangerous Yarmouth looms next Thursday.

“We need to work on our blocking, digging and we can do better on our serves,” Hester said. “I feel like the new players are filling the seniors’ spots and they’re making a big impact.”

“It’s a work in progress,” Nichols said. “Good things can happen if we keep working hard. All the teams have gotten better and we look forward to playing them. Parity is so good for the sport. The crowds keep getting bigger.”

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

Falmouth senior Kiera O’Brien goes up for a block.

Falmouth junior Rose Riversmith and Scarborough sophomore Shaelyn Thornton meet at the net.

Falmouth senior Alex Burton tries to block the shot of Scarborough senior Amelia Hardy.

Scarborough junior Meredith Winslow prepares to serve.

Falmouth sophomore Annika Hester rifles a kill over the arms of Scarborough sophomore Mayne Gwyer, left, and freshman Gwen Dorsey.

Scarborough junior Bella Dickinson sets the ball.

Falmouth sophomore Katie Phillips sets the ball for a teammate.

Falmouth senior Summer Spiegel and sophomore Hillary Bouchard celebrate a point.

Scarborough sophomore Mayne Gwyer celebrates a point.

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