CUMBERLAND—A year after falling short for the first time, the Greely volleyball team is back where it feels it belongs, in the state final.
The Falmouth Yachtsmen, meanwhile, have to wonder what it will take to beat their nemesis.
Saturday evening, Falmouth had the Rangers on the ropes in the first game, but ultimately dropped it, 26-24. Greely then pulled away from the Yachtsmen with 25-16, 25-12 victories to improve to 15-0 and set a date with Scarborough in the final next Saturday at Windham High School.
Falmouth’s season ended one step shy of a third straight trip to the state final at 10-6.
“Everyone was nervous coming into this,” said Rangers senior standout Maggie Bradley. “This was the last one before states and we really wanted to get there.”
Greely was a state finalist every year between 2002 and 2009 and in the last seven of those seasons won it all. Last fall, the Rangers lost to eventual champion Biddeford in the semifinals and ever since have been consumed with returning to pinnacle.
Greely excelled in the regular season, winning all 14 matches, while dropping just four games. Included in that run were a pair of wins over Falmouth, 3-1 (23-25, 25-17, 25-16, 25-18) at home, and 3-0 (25-17, 25-20-25-19) on the road, in the finale. The Rangers earned the top seed in Class A and a bye into Saturday’s semifinals.
The Yachtsmen quickly became one of the state’s programs under coach Gary Powers and made it to the state match in both 2009 and 2010, losing in three games both years, first to Greely, then to Biddeford.
Falmouth has battled all year long, but suffered some tough regular season setbacks and wound up 9-5, good for the fifth seed. Wednesday, the Yachtsmen avenged their state match loss with a 3-1 win at No. 4 Biddeford in the quarterfinals.
Saturday, Falmouth came out sizzling, while the Rangers suffered from a bout of nerves.
Ultimately, Greely settled down and advanced.
The Rangers were up, 6-3, in the first game, before the Yachtsmen went on an 8-0 run for an 11-6 lead. Greely then captured nine successive points for a 15-14 advantage. The teams then were tied at 16-16, 17-17, 18-18 and 22-22 after a four-point Falmouth run. After a Rangers timeout, a Yachtsmen error gave Greely a one-point lead. Rangers senior captain Emily Sampson then had a kill to put the hosts on the brink, but successive Falmouth points, capped by an ace from senior Shannon Meserve made it 24-24. A Yachtsmen error gave Greely a chance to win it and on the final point, Falmouth returned the ball long and the Rangers prevailed, 26-24.
Just like that, Greely was in control and the Yachtsmen were demoralized.
“Two times ago when we played Falmouth, we lost a tight first game,” Bradley said. “Though we won the next three games, we knew it was important tonight to get that morale boost and show them we were prepared. I thought winning it not only gave us a huge boost, but it elevated our consistency for the next two games. We’re really strong, but sometimes we need time to warm up and get loose. Once we were warmed up, I feel we used the momentum and did what we knew how to do.”
“You don’t want to blame the calls, but we had people look at the video tape and that last ball, it was actually in,” Powers said. “That changes everything. You’re playing the top team in the state, to have calls be in question, it took the wind out of our sails.”
The Rangers never trailed in the second game, going up for good at 4-3. Greely extended the lead to 8-3, forcing Powers to call timeout. After Falmouth made it 9-6, Bradley had successive kills for an 11-6 advantage. The hosts gradually opened it up and pushed an 18-14 edge to 24-14 behind three kills from Bradley and another from junior Danielle Cimino. After the Yachtsmen got two points back, Bradley closed the game with yet another kill and the Rangers had a 25-16 win.
“I’m not too concerned when we get behind by five, six points,” said Greely coach Kelvin Hasch. “I know we have good servers. It’s just a matter of which rotation. We had a little fun and shifted the rotation tonight to get around his big girls because I knew what he was planning. I messed him up the first match. I think it messed us up tonight, but once we got used to it, we were fine. The second game, he shifted them back so he could line up with us. I just put (sophomore) Jordynne (Copp) in to stay.”
The third game was only in doubt for the first few points before Greely went ahead to stay, 3-2. A kill from senior Ellie Weickert made it 6-2 and forced a Falmouth timeout. An ace from Bradley pushed the lead to 9-4 and a Sampson kill started a three-point run to make it 13-5. A 5-0 run for an 18-6 advantage featured kills from Sampson and Cimino. After a Yachtsmen point, the Rangers got one back, then got a kill from Bradley, a Sampson ace and a block from Copp to make it 22-7. A kill from junior Kristen Atwood pushed the lead to 23-10 and a kill from Weickert made it 24-11. Valiant Falmouth fought off elimination on the next point, but Roach ended it with a kill and Greely wrapped things up with a 25-12 victory.
“I have to get every ball no matter what,” Roach said. “Even if it’s across the court. Maggie did so well tonight and so did everyone else on the team. I think we were just a little nervous in the first game. I think we started clicking after that and got so much better.”
Statiscally, Greely had many heroes.
Bradley finished with 11 kills, 10 digs and eight serve receives. Sampson had a dozen serve receives, 10 digs, four kills, three blocks and two aces. Weickert added eight serve receives and eight digs, Copp six blocks and three kills and Roach and senior Catherine Fellows three kills apiece.
“I thought that Haleigh Roach’s setting was amazing,” Bradley said. “One of our best aspects of this game was that our passing was really on. We weren’t passing consistently the first game. Having passing down after that helped us push through. Our setters were totally on. The hitters were great. We moved the ball around. We blocked well today. We had a presence at the net today.”
“I think Emily and Maggie had exceptional games tonight,” Hasch added. “Ellie was doing really well with quick shots in the middle. The setters were delivering the ball to where we needed it. That’s the key. If our passing’s not pinpoint, the setter has to make great things happen.”
Falmouth, playing the postseason without injured senior Jenna Serunian, could hang its head high after its effort.
“The girls never gave up,” Powers said. “They battled hard all the way through. It was a good match. The girls adjusted well to the positions they had to take. There were a couple matches had we won during the season, it would have been a different picture, but that’s what it’s all about.”
The Yachtsmen will be hurt by graduation, but several varsity players return as the team looks to get back to states in 2012.
“I have six seniors, but we have some kids coming up,” Powers said. “We’ll see how it goes.”
Scarborough (14-2) will be making its first ever appearance in a volleyball state match Saturday (1 p.m.) at Windham High School. The teams played a pair of close matches in the regular season, but the Rangers took both, 3-1 (25-20, 28-26, 13-25, 25-19) at Scarborough, and 3-1 (25-20, 25-16, 23-25, 25-20) at home.
Greely knows winning its eighth title won’t come without a struggle, but the Rangers are up for the challenge.
“We definitely have it in us,” Roach said. “We have to block (Red Storm senior star) Brittany (Bona). We have to work on our defense.”
“Scarborough never drops the ball, literally or figuratively,” Bradley said. “It won’t be easy. We’re hoping for a win and hope to bring the fire we brought tonight. It’s hard to beat a team three times. When you beat a team twice, one, they’re out to get you because you beat them twice. Two, they know how you play. A lot of it’s luck to win a third time. Our sights are now on states. We’re really happy.”
“Scarborough’s going to be tough,” Hasch added. “They want to beat us the first game. We’ll be ready. We’ll see what happens. I’m looking forward to playing them again. I think we’ve improved since we played them last time. We’re going to be hard to beat.”
Falmouth junior Danielle Li tries to get up high enough to defend Greely sophomore Jordynne Copp’s blast.
The imposing specter of Falmouth senior Shannon Meserve looms over Greely junior Danielle Cimino.
Greely junior setter extraordinaire Haleigh Roach shows she can kill the ball with the best of them as Falmouth sophomore Katrina Meserve gets in position to block.
Greely junior Danielle Cimino goes up for a kill.
Greely sophomore Jordynne Copp shows off her blocking skills as she denies Falmouth junior Danielle Li.
The Greely Rangers celebrate their trip to the state final after a 3-0 win over Falmouth Saturday night.
More photos below.