Falmouth volleyball ousted in states again

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WINDHAM—Falmouth senior volleyball captains Kate Sparks and Alana Becker tried to muster smiles as coach Gary Powers handed them the Class A runner-up plaque, but their expressions couldn’t mask their disappointment.

For the second season in a row, the Yachtsmen were leaving the state championship with the smaller piece of hardware.

No. 3 Falmouth fell 3-0 to top-seeded Biddeford in Saturday’s title match at Windham High School. The Tigers surged to a 25-11 victory in the first game, pulled out a close 25-22 win in the second, and closed out the Yachtsmen with a 25-17 win in the third.

Falmouth wrapped up its fine season with a 14-3 record. Biddeford finished 15-1, with its only loss coming to the Yachtsmen, 3-1, in Falmouth back in the third match of the season. The Tigers rebounded from the loss to rattle off 13 straight wins en route to the championship, including a hard-fought 3-2 home win over Falmouth on Oct. 6. Falmouth knocked Biddeford out of last year’s tournament, 3-0, in the semifinals before ultimately falling to Greely in the championship.

The Yachtsmen had cruised through the first two rounds of the postseason without dropping a game, eliminating No. 6 Scarborough, 3-0, at home in the quarterfinals before making the long trek up the coast to blank No. 2 Mount Desert Island, 3-0.

Falmouth scored the first two points of the championship match, but the Tigers quickly assumed control, jumping ahead 20-5 before closing the first game out with relative ease.

“We were just flat today,” Powers said. “We could not get into any rhythm at all. I don’t know what it was. We were tight. The passing was tight. We didn’t run any offense at all. Biddeford was everywhere.”

The second game was much more competitive. The Tigers carried their Game 1 momentum over and took a quick 5-1 lead, but a Sparks kill got the Yachtsmen back on track. A sequence that included a block by Becker for a point, an ace by Sparks and a Becker kill tied the game at 8-8. A kill by junior Jenna Serunian gave Falmouth a 14-11 edge, but an ace from Biddeford senior Deanna Tourigny soon tied the game at 14-14.

There were four more ties, the final one at 22-22 after the Yachtsmen scored three straight points out of a timeout. But the Tigers got the final three points on a Falmouth serve that did not clear the net, a Falmouth return into the net and a decisive kill from senior Alyssa Drapeau to end a fierce game that could have changed the complexion of the match had it gone the other way.

“It would have changed the whole momentum, given those kids a little more confidence,” Powers said. “They would have relaxed and played. But when you’re down one game, then two games, it’s hard to relax and actually play.”

Facing the two-game hole, Falmouth battled in the third game, taking an 8-6 lead on a kill by senior Jackie Keroack that forced a Biddeford timeout. The Tigers scored the next four points out of the timeout and never trailed again, finishing the match and setting off the celebration on another Drapeau kill.

Falmouth was never able to employ a strategy to consistently counter the Biddeford game plan. The Tigers also got strong play from senior Keila Grigware, who, along with Drapeau, led the team in nearly every statistical category during the season.

“We tried tipping short because they were playing long, but we just didn’t get the sets there to do that,” Powers said. “It was just not our day. But Biddeford’s a great team, so congratulations to them.”

For the first time since 2002 (when Woodland won it), a team other than Greely staked claim to the state volleyball title. Biddeford got all it could handle in the semifinals from the No. 4 Rangers before pulling out a 3-2 win, ending Greely’s seven-year reign.

“This is one of the first years that any of the six teams that made it to the tournament could have been in the finals and taken it,” said Powers, whose team closed the regular season with a two-match sweep of Greely that included a dominating 3-0 home win on Falmouth’s Senior Night. “The game is expanding. Everybody is getting better. It’s nice to see.”

Given their recent success, it’s easy to forget that the Yachtsmen have only been playing volleyball for four seasons. Falmouth will graduate seven seniors from this year’s team that have meant a lot to the program’s rapid rise.

“Three of them have been with our program since the first year — Kate Sparks, Lexi Pauls and Eva Collins,” Powers said.

Powers said his senior core has made his job easy, given their abilities and willingness to work to improve.

“You’ve got Kate Sparks, who is everywhere,” Powers said. “Alana Becker came out of the shadows last year and stood out. Laura Fay, who really was new to the game, took charge and stepped up this year. She played well. Jackie Keroack and Sarah Collmus did a great job.”

Sparks led the team in kills, aces, blocks and digs, so she will be particularly tough to replace, but even with the seniors moving on, Powers is hopeful that the program will again be a force in 2011.

“It’s a learning experience for everybody,” Powers said. “I’ve got seven kids back next year, so we’ll see what happens. We had 45 kids in the program this year, and we’ve got a big group coming out next year. I’m pleased. This sport is really taking off.”

Falmouth senior Sarah Collmus prepares to set the ball as classmate Jackie Keroack looks on from the left.

Falmouth senior Kate Sparks (38) and junior Jenna Serunian attempt to block the shot of Biddeford senior Keila Grigware (11) during Saturday’s 3-0 loss in the Class A state title match.

Falmouth junior Nicole Rogers goes up for the kill as Biddeford sophomore Autumn Dube tries to block her.

Falmouth senior Alana Becker goes up above the net to attempt to block a shot by Biddeford junior Renee Trottier.

Falmouth junior Jenna Serunian (31) and senior Laura Fay leap in
unison to block a Biddeford shot.

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Falmouth senior captains Kate Sparks (right) and Alana Becker head back toward the bench after being handed the Class A state runner-up plaque by coach Gary Powers following Saturday’s 3-0 championship loss to Biddeford.

More photos below.