FALMOUTH—In the matter of 64 minutes Thursday evening, the whole complexion of Class A volleyball changed.
The defending state champion Falmouth Yachtsmen, somewhat forgotten after a pair of early season losses, reminded everyone that they’re still a team capable of doing some serious postseason damage.
And as a result, the Greely Rangers are undefeated no more.
In the second of a possible three meetings between the rivals this fall, the Yachtsmen displayed tremendous emotion and poise on their Senior Night, played nearly flawless volleyball and produced a signature victory.
After an inspirational ceremony to honor the seniors, Falmouth came out and erased an early first set deficit and behind the passing of senior Megan Tammaro and stellar net play from seniors Leigh Bernardy and Ally Hickey and junior Lydia Farmer, enjoyed a 25-17 victory.
The Yachtsmen were even better in the second game, never trailing, and cruising to a 25-14 triumph.
Not surprisingly, the Rangers made things tougher in the third set, but the perennial powerhouse never was able to turn the tide. Falmouth got clutch play from unheralded senior Callie McMahon and consecutive kills from senior Sophie Emple slammed the door on a 25-17 triumph which ended the match in three sets.
The Yachtsmen won their sixth match in succession and improved to 10-2 while handing Greely its first loss in a dozen outings.
“We were very confident,” Tammaro said. “We had a feeling at the beginning of the game that it was ours. We had the passion and we worked together and we got it. Beating Greely never gets old. It feels good. Especially with their record.”
Entering Thursday’s match, Greely had won 13 of the 18 meetings since Falmouth’s varsity program began in 2007 (please see sidebar, below), but that statistic doesn’t properly reflect how close most of the matches have been.
The Rangers won the first four encounters by 3-0 scores, but the Yachtsmen beat Greely in the first 2009 meeting and the squads would later battle for the state title, but the Rangers prevailed in three games. The next year, Falmouth won both matches, but Greely then swept three in 2011 (including a 3-0 victory in the semifinals) and did the same thing in 2012 (including a 3-1 win in the quarterfinals). Last fall, en route to their first championship, the Yachtsmen squeaked out five-set decisions twice. Greely won the first encounter this fall, but even that three-set victory was misleading, as the games were close (25-21, 29-27, 25-23).
That victory was one of 11 straight for the Rangers to open the year. Greely opened with wins over Yarmouth (3-1), Windham (3-0), Cape Elizabeth (3-0) and Gorham (3-1), then produced an epic 3-2 come-from-behind win over Biddeford. The Rangers then blanked visiting Falmouth, won at Thornton Academy (3-0) and held on for a five-set win at Scarborough, before rolling over Cony, Cheverus and Kennebunk in three-sets.
Falmouth, meanwhile, blanked visiting Kennebunk and host Lake Region by 3-0 margins to start the year, then let a 2-0 lead slip away in a five-set home loss to Scarborough in a state game rematch. After getting back on track with three-set victories at Cheverus and at home over South Portland, the Yachtsmen fell at Greely. Since that setback, Falmouth has been on fire, beating Cape Elizabeth, Ellsworth, Biddeford, Windham and Thornton Academy, all in three games.
Thursday, the Yachtsmen kept the good times rolling, tightening the deepest league race in memory in the process.
Prior to the start of the match, seniors from Greely were given roses and the Falmouth seniors and their parents were recognized. Several girls had tears in their eyes.
“Being with this program for four years and having it be Senior Night, it was definitely emotional,” Tammaro said.
“The ceremony was a huge factor in the game tonight,” said McMahon. “Most of us were crying before the game even started. We were really excited.”
The Yachtsmen scored the first two points of the match, but Greely answered and went ahead by three when sophomore Kayley Cimino, who is already one the state’s elite players, unveiled the newest weapon in her arsenal, a jump serve, which produced an ace for a 7-4 lead. The Rangers were up, 8-5, when a kill from Falmouth junior Julia Treadwell turned the tide. A Treadwell ace tied the score and an ace from Bernardy put the Yachtsmen on top to stay, 10-9.
Hickey followed with a kill and Bernardy had a block. After Greely got a point back on a kill from junior Alex Tebbs, Hickey had a kill and Tammaro had three straight service points, including an ace, to open up a 16-10 lead and force Rangers coach Kelvin Hasch to call timeout.
It helped momentarily as senior Emily Buchanan had a kill, but a block and two kills from Hickey opened up a 20-12 lead. Greely drew back within 20-15 on an ace from senior Audrey Mann, but Farmer had a kill and after the teams traded points, Tammaro converted her first circus shot, somehow reflexively sending an apparently errant shot over the net where the stunned Rangers could only look on as it dropped. A kill from Treadwell put the Yachtsmen on the brink and after Greely got a point back, a service fault gave Falmouth game one, 25-17.
Set two saw the Yachtsmen rattle off three quick points to set the tone. The Rangers got a kill from sophomore Molly Chapin, but Hickey countered with a kill and Bernardy produced four straight service points, including two aces, with one hitting the net and dropping over. A Farmer kill capped the run and made it 8-1. Greely got the next two points, but just when the Rangers hoped to go on a run, they served the ball into the net.
“Every time we got a couple points, we’d serve it in the net,” Hasch lamented. “It was frustrating.”
A kill from Cimino made it 9-4, but Tammaro again turned heads by killing the ball with her back to the net. A Treadwell block made it 11-4. The Rangers crept back to 13-8 on an ace from senior Lauren Weickert and pulled within 16-12 on a Chapin kill, but a service fault again derailed the comeback and Bernardy delivered an ace. Down the stretch, Falmouth got kills from Hickey and Bernardy and then, with the score 22-14, Tammaro dove for the ball and not only saved it, but somehow steered it over the net for yet another breathtaking kill.
“That just happened,” Tammaro said. “Pure luck.”
“Megan is our captain and basically is a coach out there on her own,” McMahon said. “She inspires all of us to be better players. She’s a great person on and off the court.”
“Megan is a phenomenal player,” added Yachtsmen coach Gary Powers. “I don’t know what we’d do without her. She was all over the court.”
An ace from McMahon and a Hickey kill slammed the door and Falmouth had game two, 25-14.
The third set began with an ace from junior Hannah Butland and Greely had its first lead since early in the first game. The Rangers went up, 3-1, but a kill from Bernardy and a Bernardy ace were followed by a long point that featured a Tammaro diving save, a Hickey block and finally a Hickey kill to put the Yachtsmen ahead. Greely drew even on a Cimino block, but Falmouth got the next two points. After the Rangers went back on top, 7-6, on a Cimino ace, the Yachtsmen drew even, and with McMahon serving, went ahead for good.
A block from Treadwell, a Farmer kill and another point made it 11-7 and forced a Hasch timeout, but Treadwell had another kill, giving McMahon four straight service points.
“It was awesome to be out there on the court with the adrenaline,” said McMahon. “I always serve better when I can feel the energy and adrenaline. Tonight it was awesome.”
McMahon wasn’t a part of last year’s title team and has had to fight for time on the court this fall, but has clearly become a factor.
“Callie has worked really hard in practice,” Tammaro said. “She’s earned her spot. She’s playing really well.”
“Callie was studying abroad last year,” Powers said. “She came back and has earned her spot. She’s court-smart and she has a good skill set. She’s made a huge difference.”
Greely ended the run, but immediately served the ball into the net. The Rangers did get within 13-10, but another fault was followed by consecutive Bernardy kills, one with her right hand and the next with her left. After Greely made it 17-13, McMahon had her lone kill and Falmouth got the next two points for a 20-13 advantage. After a Yachtsmen service fault, Farmer had a kill. Cimino got a point back with a kill, but Hickey responded with one of her own.
The Rangers, behind a block from Weickert, pulled within 22-17 and kept a sliver of hope alive, but it was quickly dashed as Farmer had a kill, Emple produced another and then, McMahon set up Emple for the kill which ended the match.
“That was an awesome point to win on,” McMahon said. “This was really important for us. Greely’s been our rival for many years. Winning states last year set up for expectations this year and we’re finally living up to them. We worked hard in practice for this game. I’m glad it worked out the way it did.”
“We’ve had all the pieces from the start,” Tammaro said. “It was just a matter of putting it together, working hard and wanting it. We have the passion and it showed tonight.”
“We knew coming in that it would be a tough game,” Powers added. “(Last time) we only lost by a total of eight points and we missed eight serves and had six net violations. We tried to limit them to one serve every time. We’ve worked on little things and limiting our mistakes. It helps that everyone across the front is a deadly hitter and knows what to do with the ball.”
Tammaro stuffed the stat sheet with 18 aces, eight service points and three kills.
“My goal (on serves) was just to get it over,” Tammaro said. “I wasn’t doing anything special. I didn’t want to miss a serve on an important point.
“My hitters are great. I have faith in them all. I just have to give them a good set and I know they’ll take care of the rest.”
Bernardy had 13 service points, including four aces, as well as four kills and two blocks. Hickey added 11 kills and three blocks. Farmer finished with seven kills and four blocks. Treadwell had six service points, three kills and three blocks. McMahon produced 10 service points. Emple had three kills near the end of the match.
All in all, it was a solid team effort.
“It’s something we’ve worked on, trying to get everyone to jell together,” Powers said. “Because of our schedule, we had weak teams and strong teams, so we’ve been mixing kids up. Now we’re at the point where we get it and the kids are more comfortable on the court.”
Greely got nine assists from Butland, seven kills and six service points from Tebbs, seven assists and five kills from Cimino and five blocks from Weickert.
“We probably didn’t come to play,” Hasch said. “(Falmouth) passed the ball and they went for every ball. If you can’t pass and hit, it’s easier for them to play defense. When we hit them the ball, we gave it to them in their sweet spot. We needed Kayley to hit the ball and we couldn’t get her passes.”
Both teams have been postseason regulars and squads who have tasted the ultimate joy of winning a championship and each power feels it can ascend to the pinnacle this fall.
Greely (still first in the Class A Heal Points standings) plays in a tournament in Springfield, Massachusetts this weekend, then goes to South Portland Tuesday and closes with a pivotal battle at dangerous Cape Elizabeth Thursday. If the Rangers can secure homecourt advantage for the playoffs, they’ll be very difficult to stop.
“I’m not worried one bit,” Hasch said. “I’m confident we’ll respond. We’ll have a good practice tomorrow. We’ve got things to work on. This was a good wakeup call.
Falmouth (third in Class A) closes with tests at Gorham (Tuesday) and Scarborough (Thursday).
The Yachtsmen are starting to sport that championship look again.
“We had a rough start to the season, but we’re starting to roll now,” Tammaro said. “I think we’re a little deeper this year as a team. We have a ton of returning players and we all worked hard all offseason. We just have to work on our serve receive, keeping the other team off the net and having good passes.”
“This puts us through the roof,” said Powers. “This is what we needed. We’re at that point now where we’re comfortable with each other and things are going well. We have a good supporting cast and that helps us all around.”
Falmouth’s seniors are joined by coach Gary Powers in a pre-match ceremony.
Greely junior Hannah Butland sends the ball over the net.
Greely sophomore Kayley Cimino rises up for a kill.
Falmouth senior Sophie Emple soars for a shot.
Falmouth junior Lydia Farmer rises up for one of her seven kills.
Falmouth senior Ally Hickey (35, joined at the net by classmate Leigh Bernardy) soars to block the shot of Greely sophomore Molly Chapin.
Falmouth senior standout Megan Tammaro prepares to serve. Tammaro had eight service points Thursday and that only begins to tell the story of her dominance.
Greely senior Lauren Weickert blocks a Falmouth shot.
Falmouth junior Lydia Farmer (left), senior Megan Tammaro (28) and senior Callie McMahon celebrate a point.
@ Greely 3 Falmouth 0
@ Falmouth 3 Greely 2
Falmouth 3 @ Greely 2
@ Greely 3 Falmouth 0
Greely 3 @ Falmouth 2
@ Greely 3 Falmouth 1 (Class A quarterfinals)
@ Falmouth 3 Greely 2
Falmouth 3 @ Greely 0
@ Greely 3 Falmouth 0
Greely 3 @ Falmouth 0
Greely 3 @ Falmouth 0
@ Greely 3 Falmouth 0
The Falmouth volleyball team had no shortage of opportunities to celebrate Thursday night during a surprisingly easy three-set victory over rival Greely.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.