CUMBERLAND—Greely’s gold standard volleyball program has done it all over the past 14 years.
Except rally from a 2-0 deficit in a playoff match.
Until Wednesday night that is.
When the Rangers pulled off that very magic act and as a result, they’re just one win away from a record 10th state title.
Greely, the second-ranked team in Class A, hosted No. 3 Falmouth in what was expected to be a thrilling semifinal round match and the rivals exceeded the hype, leaving all those who bore witness exhausted and exhilarated by what ensued.
The Yachtsmen, seeking a third straight trip to the state final, seized early control by winning the first set, 25-20, scoring the final five points behind three aces from junior Madi Tait.
Falmouth then pushed the Rangers to the brink with a decisive 25-15 win the second set, as junior Malia White closed out the game with stellar serving.
To no one’s surprise, Greely roared back in the third set, never trailing, and thanks to the serving of senior Hannah Butland and the strong net play of classmate Alex Tebbs, rolled to a 25-12 victory.
The Rangers never trailed in the fourth set either and despite a late Yachtsmen surge, pushed the match to the limit by virtue of a 25-19 victory, as a kill from junior Molly Chapin set up a winner-take-all, first-team-to-15-points fifth set.
There, Greely completed its comeback in surprisingly easy fashion.
A kill from do-everything junior Kayley Cimino set the tone and Butland served up seven straight points to give the Rangers a 7-0 lead. Falmouth was staggered and never got closer than five points as Greely pulled away and prevailed, 15-5, taking the match in a thrilling five sets.
The Rangers got superb efforts from several sources, improved to 13-3, ended the Yachtsmen’s fine season at 11-5 and advanced to meet surprise finalist Scarborough (12-5) in the Class A state match, to be contested Saturday at 1 p.m. at South Portland High School.
“This is probably the best volleyball we’ve played this year,” said program architect and coach Kelvin Hasch. “I don’t know where the girls got the calmness to come back. After the second set, I just told them to go out and play. I said, ‘You can’t go down like this.'”
In a season of unprecedented depth and balance, Falmouth and Greely have been near the top all the way through.
The Rangers overcame an 0-2 start, losing only to Cape Elizabeth in their final 12 matches to earn the No. 2 seed behind the Capers in Class A. Saturday, Greely had little trouble with seventh-ranked Mt. Desert Island in the quarterfinals, winning in three sets (25-14, 25-20, 25-17).
The Yachtsmen lost twice to Cape Elizabeth and once each to Greely and Scarborough during their regular season and as the No. 3 seed, swept No. 6 Windham in Saturday’s quarterfinals, 25-12, 27-25, 25-19.
On Sept. 4, in the regular season opener, host Falmouth outlasted the Rangers in five sets. Greely returned the favor with a 3-1 home win Oct. 1.
Entering play Wednesday, the rivals had met three prior times in the postseason (see sidebar, below), with the Rangers taking all three.
This time around, Greely won it again.
In unlikely fashion.
Falmouth came out sizzling, winning the match’s first five points, thanks to a block and a kill from senior Julia Treadwell, a kill from senior Emma Walsh and a kill from White. The Rangers tried to answer as Butland had a kill, then served up consecutive aces, but a service fault made it 6-3.
Greely tied it up, 6-6, 7-7, 8-8 and 10-10, but each time, the Yachtsmen retained the lead. After pulling even at 11-11, the Rangers took their first lead on a Chapin ace and added a point to make it 13-11, but Falmouth answered and tied the score on a block from senior Lydia Farmer, then got a kill from Farmer and an ace from junior Alaina Birkel for a 16-14 lead, forcing Hasch to call timeout.
Treadwell had a block out of the break, but the hosts crept within a point when a kill from sophomore Sara Agren cut the deficit to 19-18. After a Yachtsmen point, Agren had a kill and Chapin’s block tied the score, 20-20, but Falmouth wouldn’t be denied, closing on a 5-0 run, as Walsh had a kill, Tait served up consecutive aces and out of a Greely timeout, Walsh had a kill and Tait had one more ace to win it, 25-20.
In the first set, junior Amanda Watson had eight assists and five service points, Walsh had four kills, Tait produced three aces and Farmer and White each added three kills.
The Rangers got off to a better start in the second set, scoring the first two points, but Tait went to the floor to save the ball and in the process, sent it over the net to get the Yachtsmen on the board. After Greely went up, 4-3, White had a kill, Birkel served up an ace, Farmer had a block and Falmouth won another point for a 7-4 lead. The Rangers got back within a point at 8-7, 9-8 and 11-10 (on a Tebbs kill), but Yachtsmen sophomore Alison Noyes had a kill, Tait had an ace and a subsequent point stretched the lead to 14-10. Greely pulled within two at 14-12 and 16-14, but Farmer and Watson had kills and after the Rangers got a point back on a Cimino kill, Falmouth closed it out with seven straight points.
After a pair of Farmer kills and another point, Hasch called timeout, but it didn’t help, as the Yachtsmen came out with another point, White served up an ace, Falmouth got a point to go up, 24-15, then Greely hit the ball out to close a six-point White service run as the Yachtsmen won, 25-15, and took a 2-0 lead.
Falmouth never would close it out, however.
The Rangers never trailed in the third game, getting a kill from Tebbs, a Tebbs block and a Cimino kill to go on top for good. After Greely sophomore Claire Davis had a pair of aces, the Yachtsmen got a point back, but Tebbs answered with a kill. Falmouth crept within 6-5, then served the ball into the net and an ace from Greely sophomore Coco Petrone made it 8-5. The Yachtsmen got a point back on a Noyes kill, but the Rangers got the next three points, thanks to a block and a kill from Tebbs, to go up, 11-6. A Walsh kill stemmed the tide, but Tebbs had a kill and Butland added a pair of aces to spark a run that pushed the lead to 16-7, forcing Falmouth coach Molly Northway to take timeout.
It didn’t help, as Greely got four more points, highlighted by a Butland ace and a Tebbs kill, for a 20-7 lead. The 8-0 run finally ended with a service fault and the Yachtsmen got another point, but the Rangers answered as Tebbs had two aces, pushing the lead to 24-9. A fault kept Falmouth alive, Farmer added a kill and Treadwell had an ace, but that only delayed the inevitable and Cimino rose for a kill to produce a 25-12 victory, getting Greely back in the match.
In that game, Butland had eight service points, including three aces, and three assists.
“It felt amazing, especially because my serves haven’t been that great,” said Butland. “It was great to get the ball rolling for us to win.”
Tebbs came alive with five kills, two blocks and two aces.
The Rangers took care of business in the pivotal fourth set as well.
Butland continued her service brilliance with successive aces to get things started. A block from senior Lauren Murley made it 5-1, but the Yachtsmen got the next four points, highlighted by a kill from White and successive aces from Birkel, to tie the score, 5-5.
Undaunted, after a Falmouth service fault, Greely got a kill from Agren and another from Cimino. A Treadwell kill was followed by a fault, a Cimino ace and a Cimino kill to make it 11-6 Rangers. Falmouth rallied behind a block from Farmer, a Farmer kill, a Noyes block and another point thanks to key saves from Watson and Noyes, to cut the deficit to 11-10. After the teams traded points, Greely got three in a row, highlighted by a Tebbs kill, for a 15-11 lead.
After the Yachtsmen cut the deficit to two, Tebbs had successive kills and Butland served an ace to make it 18-13. Falmouth pulled within 19-15 on a Treadwell block, but Falmouth faulted, Chapin had a kill and another Rangers’ point made it 22-15. After the Yachtsmen got the next two points, Greely got one back and Cimino served an ace for a 24-17 lead. Falmouth stayed alive with two straight points, including a Farmer kill, but Chapin slammed the door with a kill, the Rangers had a 25-19 victory and the match went to a fifth and decisive set to determine a winner.
Tebbs had four kills, Cimino had three assists and three aces and Butland added three aces in the set.
Greely had all the momentum entering the final set and left no doubt.
Cimino set the tone with a kill, then Butland returned to prominence at the service line, serving up an ace and after a Tebbs kill, producing another ace for a 4-0 lead. After Tebbs had another kill and Butland served up another ace, Northway took a timeout, but the Rangers got another point for a 7-0 lead.
The Yachtsmen finally got on the board when Greely hit the ball out. The teams then traded points and a Birkel ace cut the deficit to 8-3 and gave Falmouth a little momentum and hope, but consecutive Cimino kills opened it up again. A Farmer kill made it 10-4, but Cimino had a kill, Butland had another and out of a Yachtsmen timeout, Cimino came up with one more kill for a 13-4 advantage.
Falmouth one more point, but Tebbs soared for a kill, then at 7:45 p.m., after 104 riveting minutes, the Rangers’ comeback was official when the Yachtsmen hit the ball into the net, giving Greely the fifth set, 15-5, and the match, 3-2.
“I was on Cloud Nine (when we won),” Cimino said. “That doesn’t even explain it. It was incredible. I was crying. We just played so well as a team. Props to the underclassmen. Our defense picked up every ball. I’m still in shock from what happened. We’re aware of our history. I wanted this for the coaches.”
“I think the problem with the first two sets was we didn’t have enough confidence and when we got down we didn’t get back up, but once we got on a roll, we showed what we could do,” Butland said. “As a senior, I didn’t want to lose. I had motivation to win it for me and for Alex.”
“We had to leave it all on the court,” Tebbs said. “We felt like we had to keep our energy up. Greely’s known for doing a lot of five game matches. It wasn’t new for us, but we had to be fired up.”
“The girls have the feeling now,” Hasch added. “I thought we maybe had momentum going into the fifth, but Falmouth picked it up at the end of the fourth. I talked about it being a mini-game and we work on mini-games all the time. We chipped away at it.”
Butland had seven service points, including three aces, in the fifth set alone and wound up with 17 service points, including nine aces. She also delivered 27 pinpoint assists and had a couple kills for good measure.
“Hannah served great all night,” Hasch said. “Boy did she put some sets on the money. She had a lot of assists and worked hard.”
Tebbs came alive during the comeback and wound up with 16 kills and seven service points.
“I just got some amazing passes,” Tebbs said. “It all just started to flow together.”
Cimino had five kills in the fifth game and had 15 overall. She also had five assists, a block and six service points.
Chapin added four kills and three blocks, Agren had three kills and Davis finished with five service points.
For Falmouth, Watson finished with 23 assists and seven service points, White had seven kills and eight service points, Farmer bowed out with 13 kills and four blocks and Treadwell’s final game produced three kills, three blocks and two service points. Walsh added six kills, Noyes had four blocks and three kills, Tait had seven service points, including four aces, and Birkel had 11 service points, including four aces.
“One thing Greely did the last three sets was speed up the game and we had a problem getting confidence back,” Northway said. “It was lacking in our serve/receive. That’s where I saw it the most. I explained that we needed to slow it down. We have a joke about butter and making a perfect pass like getting it through warm butter. We talked having heart and confidence and wanting it. I know (the girls) wanted it, but they were scared and it didn’t seem like anything worked. We couldn’t get momentum to get multiple points in a row.”
Northway, a former Greely player and coach, wasn’t surprised the Rangers rallied.
“Greely knows they’re the team to beat and they’ll always be the team to beat,” Northway said. “I know when I was playing, I knew I couldn’t lose. That’s continued whether they win state championships or not.”
Falmouth came into the season with a lot of question marks, but still managed to win 11 matches and get to the brink of another trip to the state match.
“Looking back on the season, I’m so proud of these girls,” Northway said. “We came back with two starters. I could have thrown anyone in at any moment.”
The Yachtsmen graduate Farmer, Treadwell, Walsh and Caroline DeNoia, but should be very strong in 2016.
“We’re only losing four seniors and we have some talent coming back,” said Northway. “I hope they’ll be hungry. I know I want it and I hope they will too.”
Greely will seek its 10th state championship Saturday, but it won’t be easy.
The Rangers split two meetings with the Red Storm this year, losing at home in five sets Sept. 8, then winning in Scarborough in four sets, Oct. 6. Greely won three of the past four playoff battles, but the most recent resulted in a four-set Red Storm win in the 2013 semifinals.
“We have to play (Saturday) like we just did,” Cimino said. “We have to move on defense. We have to get sets to Alex. We have to talk more. We can’t hesitate and we can’t fall behind, 2-0. That will be key.”
“We just need to go in and play our game,” Tebbs said. “We’ll be nervous, but hopefully those nerves help us play better.”
“Hopefully we can continue on Saturday and do a little damage,” Hasch added. “I think it’ll be a good match. I don’t think it’ll be easy. I plan on going five (sets).”
Greely (from left) seniors Lauren Murley and Alex Tebbs, junior Kayley Cimino, sophomore Claire Davis and sophomore Coco Petrone had a lot to shout about Wednesday night in the Rangers’ come-from-behind 3-2 win over Falmouth in a Class A state semifinal.
Mike Strout photos.
Greely junior Kayley Cimino fires a kill past Falmouth senior Lydia Farmer.
Falmouth junior Amanda Watson sets the ball.
Falmouth senior Lydia Farmer tries to kill the ball past Greely senior Lauren Murley (4) and junior Kayley Cimino.
Falmouth senior Julia Treadwell tries to get the ball over Greely senior Lauren Murley.
Greely sophomore Coco Petrone handles a shot.
Falmouth seniors Emma Walsh (20) and Julia Treadwell celebrate a point.
Greely senior Hannah Butland exults after a key point.
2012 Class A quarterfinals
Greely 3 Falmouth 1
2011 Class A semifinals
Greely 3 Falmouth 0
2009 Class A Final
Greely 3 Falmouth 0