Falmouth overcomes slow start, downs Yarmouth in four sets

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FALMOUTH—When Falmouth’s volleyball team lost the first set of Thursday evening’s showdown to visiting Yarmouth by a decisive 25-9 margin, it looked like it might be a long night for the Yachtsmen.

Instead, Falmouth had the Clippers right where it wanted them and the Yachtsmen resembled the champions they hope to become by roaring back with a vengeance.

After leading throughout in a 25-16 second set victory, Falmouth turned the third game in its favor thanks to a breathtaking individual play from junior libero Madi Tait and rode a few more well-placed shots to a 25-19 decision. The fourth set was close much of the way, but the Yachtsmen’s ability to pass and finish gradually opened it up and an ace from senior Lydia Farmer slammed the door on a 25-18 win and a 3-1 match victory.

Farmer had 12 kills, junior Amanda Watson was a setting machine, producing 20 assists, and several other players played pivotal roles as Falmouth improved to 9-3 and dropped Yarmouth to 8-3 in the process.

“It didn’t start well, but I’m so impressed how we came back,” said Yachtsmen first-year coach Molly Northway. “We have an old team on paper, but we have a young team on the court. We had some luck on our side. It’s huge for us.”

It’s been awhile

Prior to Thursday, Falmouth and Yarmouth had only met nine times since the Yachtsmen started their varsity program in 2007, with Falmouth winning on seven occasions (see sidebar, below). The most recent encounter was probably the best, as the Yachtsmen won a five-set thriller at home on Oct. 1, 2012.

So far this year, both teams have been among the finest in the state.

Yarmouth, which won Class B in 2011, 2013 and 2014, moved up to Class A this fall and has shown it can compete. The Clippers opened by downing visiting Gorham (3-1), host Cony (3-0), host Kennebunk (3-0), visiting Scarborough in a five-set thriller and host Cheverus (3-0), before letting a sure win slip away in an agonizing five-set loss to Greely. After getting back in the win column, 3-0, over visiting Mt. Desert Island, Yarmouth fell in five sets again, at Scarborough, before winning, 3-1, at Gorham and 3-0 at home over Kennebunk.

The Yachtsmen, meanwhile, held off Greely in a five-set epic in the opener, then blanked Biddeford and beat Windham and Gorham by identical 3-1 scores before losing, 3-1, to visiting Cape Elizabeth. After a 3-2 loss at Scarborough, Falmouth blanked visiting Kennebunk and host Cony, then lost, 3-1, at Greely before righting the ship with a 3-1 win at MDI and a 3-0 home victory over Biddeford.

“We started out with that huge win over Greely and we were super-pumped, then we had a rough patch in the middle,” Farmer said. “Scarborough was a wakeup call, then we lost to Greely. We’ve really stepped it up in practice.”

Thursday, with some major Heal Points at stake, the Clippers appeared on their way to victory until the Yachtsmen took control of the match.

Falmouth started the first set with a service fault and things didn’t get much better. While the Yachtsmen did manage to lead by scores of 4-3 and 5-4, Yarmouth took the lead for good on a pair of aces from junior Andrea St. Pierre. Senior Makenzie Sheehan extended the lead with a pair of kills and a block, senior Morgan Hamre served an ace and another Sheehan kill made it 12-6. Falmouth got back to 12-8, then faulted and Clippers junior Rachel Chillé stepped to the service line and put the set out of reach with six straight points. After a kill from junior Victoria Burton got a point back for the hosts, Sheehan had a kill, then served up five straight points, capped by an ace, to produce a 25-9 set victory.

Sheehan had six service points, four kills and a block, senior Liz Clark had seven assists and Chillé finished with six service points in the game.

Unfazed, Falmouth bounced right back in the second set.

Burton set the tone with a kill and Watson followed with an ace. After senior Heather Clark had a kill for Yarmouth, senior Julia Treadwell had a block to make it 3-1. A Clark kill was countered by one from Farmer to keep the lead at two. Hamre and sophomore Alison Noyes then traded kills before the Clippers got the next point to draw within 5-4.

They would get no closer.

A kill by Noyes was followed by an ace from Farmer and a Burton kill for an 8-4 lead. Falmouth went up, 11-6, on a Treadwell kill, then made it 15-8 on a kill from junior Malia White. Yarmouth got a couple points back, but Farmer had a kill and Falmouth got another point for a 17-10 lead. Three more times, the Clippers drew within six, but they couldn’t go on a run and an ace from Watson made it 21-13. Kills from Alison Clark and Heather Clark gave Yarmouth its first consecutive points of the game, but Burton stemmed the tide with a kill, the Yachtsmen got another point, Treadwell scored a point on a block and White set up Farmer for a kill which ended the set, 25-16, in Falmouth’s favor.

In the game, Watson had eight assists and two aces, which helped overcome 10 Liz Clark assists.

With the match deadlocked, the third set loomed large and the Clippers got off to a fast start thanks to a kill from Alison Clark and an ace from Sheehan for a 3-0 lead.

Then, Tait made the play of the match to turn the tide.

Tait not only dove to the floor to dig and deny a sure point, but she managed to send the ball over the net in the process and place it just inside the end line for an improbable kill, giving her team a lift.

“Madi’s amazing,” Farmer said. “She gets everything. That was insane.”

“Liberos don’t get kills too often,” Watson said. “That was awesome.”

“I told the girls to hit the floor for everything and Madi did,” Northway added.

Junior Alaina Birkel kept the momentum going with a pair of aces to put the hosts ahead. Yarmouth retook the lead, 6-4, on a Liz Clark ace which hung on the net before falling over and an Alison Clark kill, but Treadwell tied the score, 6-6, with an ace. The score was tied again at 7-7, 8-8, 9-9 and 10-10 before a Treadwell kill put Falmouth on top for good. Watson added an ace and Treadwell had a block to make it 13-10. After a fault gave the Clippers a point, the Yachtsmen made it 15-11 behind kills from Burton and Farmer. Yarmouth cut the deficit to 15-13, but Farmer had a kill. The Clippers drew within two at 16-14, 17-15 and 18-16, but coulnd’t get any closer. Kills by Farmer and Burton made the score 20-16. After the teams traded points, Burton had a kill and Tait served an ace. Yarmouth coach Jim Senecal called timeout and the Clippers got a point back on a kill by Sheehan and added another, but Treadwell had a kill and a Watson ace closed out set number three, 25-19, in Falmouth’s favor, putting the Yachtsmen on top in the match.

“We saw they were getting us in our weak spots (in the first set),” Watson said. “They were things we’ve seen before. They were in our heads and we were nervous. We just had to fix our mistakes and we knew what to do.”

With most matches between top powers going five sets this fall, a Yarmouth fourth set victory wouldn’t have come as a surprise, but Falmouth did what it had to do to bring the match to an end more quickly.

Sheehan started the game with an ace, but Treadwell tied it with a kill. After Heather Clark had a block, the Clippers faulted and a Farmer ace put the Yachtsmen on top. Yarmouth rallied to lead, 6-3, thanks to an ace from Alison Clark and a kill from Heather Clark, but a service fault sparked a 5-0 Falmouth run. The Clippers tied it, 8-8, on a kill by Chillé, but Farmer had a block and White served an ace to make it 10-8 Yachtsmen. Yarmouth again tied the score on a block by Sheehan and an ace from Hamre, but a kill from Farmer put Falmouth ahead for good.

The game remained tight until a pivotal swing at 16-14. Initially the next point appeared to go to the Clippers on a kill by Heather Clark, but the call was reversed and the point went to Falmouth, making it 17-14. A block from Noyes kept things going and the Yachtsmen made it 20-14 before Heather Clark stemmed the tide with a kill. A kill from Farmer, another point and a White ace pushed the lead to 23-15. Sheehan had a kill and Yarmouth got two more points, pulling within 23-18, but a service fault put the Clippers on the brink and Farmer slammed the door with an ace, ending the set, 25-18, and the match, 3-1.

Farmer ended up with 12 kills and two aces.

Watson added 20 assists and four aces.

“I was really rusty coming in, but the team’s been so nice with me,” Watson said. “I’ve learned where everyone likes it and everything’s clicked.”

“Amanda stepped right up this year,” Farmer said. “She’s on fire and she knows exactly where I like to hit. Everyone has a different set they like and she’s adapted well. It’s amazing how accurate her sets are.”

Treadwell had 11 service points, four blocks and four kills. White added six service points, including three aces, four kills, three assists and a block.

Then there were Burton and Noyes, who made a huge difference in the victory.

Burton had nine kills, while Noyes had four timely kills and a block.

“Victoria’s never played outside before and I guess everything’s clicked for her,” Farmer said. “Alison was in primarily for blocking today. She also had some amazing hits.”

“I have a very deep bench and I’ve been subbing them in,” Northway said. “Victoria started at MDI and played a phenomenal game and played great tonight. Alison has stepped it up. She’s been blocking, hitting, playing the court very well.”

For Yarmouth, Liz Clark had 30 assists and five service points, Sheehan finished with nine service points, including four aces, seven kills and five blocks, Heather Clark had 12 kills and seven blocks, Alison Clark finished with 10 kills, Chillé added seven service points, Hamre had six service points and St. Pierre wound up with five service points.

“It’s such a strange game,” Senecal said. “You never know. You saw how we came out and played in the first set, but credit to Falmouth. I don’t know if they made adjustments, but they made some really good plays and we got tentative. We weren’t able to recover tonight, which is too bad because we’re a really good team and we know we can play with all these top teams. We got outplayed by a team that looked like they wanted it more tonight. Some of their digs that went right over the net and landed in the corner, there’s not much you can do about that.”

No time to lose

Both teams are running out of time to climb up the standings.

Yarmouth (now seventh in the Class A Heals at press time) hopes to bounce back Tuesday at Biddeford. Home matches versus Cony and Cape Elizabeth wrap up the regular season.

“We’ll see where we end up,” Senecal said. “We have a big match against Biddeford. We have a big home match against Cape. We’re looking forward to that. Hopefully we can make something good happen.”

Falmouth (third behind Cape Elizabeth and Greely in Class A) travels to Cape Elizabeth Tuesday, then has a chance to avenge a loss when Scarborough pays a visit Thursday in the finale.

“Nights like tonight, when everybody’s on, I think we’re unstoppable,” Farmer said. “We have such a deep bench. No matter who goes in, we’re super supportive. I think we’re ready to go.”

“We go into every game knowing we’ll play our hardest,” Watson said. “We have such high hopes. I think we’re right there. Those other teams are really good. We know what to do when we play them.”

“Hopefully (this win is) a turning point and we can continue to win from here on out,” Northway added. “We can play with everybody. It’s anyone’s game. We’re just hoping to push through to the top.”

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

Falmouth’s volleyball team celebrates winning a point during Thursday’s 3-1 home win over Yarmouth.

Mike Strout photos.

Yarmouth junior Allison Clark spikes over Falmouth senior Julia Treadwell.

Falmouth junior Madi Tait, who had some highlight reel digs Thursday, goes all out for the ball.

Falmouth senior Lydia Farmer has a kill attempt blocked by Yarmouth senior Heather Clark (21) with senior Morgan Hamre also in the play.

Yarmouth junior Andrea St. Pierre shows her defensive acumen.

Yarmouth senior Rachel Chillé goes up for a kill as Falmouth sophomore Alison Noyes defends.

Falmouth senior Julia Treadwell returns the ball.

Yarmouth senior Makenzie Sheehan prepares a serve. 

Falmouth junior Malia White handles a shot.

Falmouth senior Emma Walsh goes up for a kill as Yarmouth senior Liz Clark defends.

Yarmouth exults after winning a point.

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@ Falmouth 3 Yarmouth 1
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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.