While it’s too early to know for sure if the six-time defending state champion Greely Rangers volleyball team has come back to the pack, it is safe to surmise that Greely has some company at the top this year from rivals the Rangers know all too well.
The Falmouth Yachtsmen, only in their third-year as a varsity program, have built on last year’s 12 victories and trip to the semifinals by getting off to a promising 4-0 start in 2009.
Falmouth beat host Scarborough in four sets in its first match (25-16, 25-21, 21-25, 25-19), then made a major statement with a three-set victory over Gorham (25-9, 25-20, 25-21). Saturday, the Yachtsmen made the trip to Cony and beat the Rams 3-0 (25-19, 25-4, 25-12) and also dispatched Mt. Desert Island 3-1 (25-7, 25-12, 17-25, 25-18).
“So far, the season has been going well,” said Falmouth coach Gary Powers. “The new kids are fitting in. I’ve got huge numbers again this year, so I’m really pleased. The kids were kind of sluggish against Scarborough and we didn’t get into a routine.
“Against Gorham, things went smoother. Everything just clicked. Senior Carolyn Smith led the team in hits and serves and had six kills. Senior Alyssa Yeung had six kills, as well as four blocks. Senior Emma Wilberg led the team with 21 sets and junior Alana Becker contributed 14 service points, as well as some great back row playing.
“The wins have been a total team effort. Everything is falling into place and we’re deep and strong at every position. My concern heading into the season was the setter position with just one experienced setter returning. Senior Karita Stevens and juniors Sarah Collmus and Karla Galli have really stepped up and done a great job filling those spots. We’re looking forward to an exciting year, but we’re taking it one match at a time.”
Falmouth (first in the Class A Heal Points standings as of Tuesday morning) was home with Biddeford Tuesday and hosts Yarmouth Monday of next week.
Speaking of the Clippers, they’re doing great things as well.
Yarmouth opened with a statement-making 3-2 (25-16, 25-15, 25-13, 25-22, 15-8) home win over Gorham. The Clippers then blanked Scarborough in three hard-fought sets (25-23, 26-24, 25-21). Friday, Yarmouth suffered its first loss, 3-1 (23-25, 25-18, 17-25, 21-25) to defending regional finalist Biddeford, but Monday, the Clippers got back in the win column and improved to 3-1 with a 3-1 (25-15, 25-17, 17-25, 25-16) victory at North Yarmouth Academy.
“It’s been gratifying to see the results so far, but we know we’ve still got a long way to go,” said Yarmouth coach Jim Senecal. “Our first three matches were all very exciting and could have gone either way. We could have been 3-0 or 0-3. Looking at our schedule, as well as the new playoff structure (the sport has been split into two classes with just 50 percent of each class qualifying), I told the kids I felt they needed to win two of our first three matches against teams we hadn’t beaten in years. The girls worked hard all summer and much of our success so far is a result of the great leadership of our seniors.”
Senecal credited the leadership and play of captains Kate Durrell, Rachel Moser and Morgan Ruetty, along with sophomores Morgan Cahill and Suzanne Driscoll and junior Abbie Hutchinson. Senior Melanie Shaw and junior Emily Clark have also provided clutch performances.
“I’m really proud of the girls and how much the program has grown the last three years,” Senecal said. “The program was very close to being dropped altogether in 2007. Now, many people are including us in the conversation when they talk about some of the better and certainly most improved teams in the state.”
The Clippers (fifth in Class A) were at Kennebunk Tuesday and play at Falmouth Monday.
Greely, meanwhile, continues to be Greely, passing every test.
The Rangers have lost just once during their six-year reign, but showed a little vulnerability at Biddeford in their opener, which was a rematch of last year’s regional final. Greely dropped two of the first three sets, but rallied to win 3-2 (20-25, 25-20, 19-25, 25-16, 15-13).
“That was a very tough match,” said Greely coach/dynasty builder Kelvin Hasch. “We didn’t play up to potential. Sets four and five were a team effort. We played smart. Maggie Bradley was key with nine kills in set two. Michaela Campbell and Erin Cadigan had a lot of serve receptions and defensive digs. Mandy St. Hillaire was great at libero.”
The Rangers then returned to form last week with 3-0 wins at Gorham (25-13, 25-21, 25-18) and Kennebunk (25-11, 25-5, 25-19) to improve to 3-0 (good for second in the Class A Heal Points)
“Team-wise, we have come together quickly and work hard everyday,” Hasch said. “The Biddeford match was a great test of what we need to do. We have 10 seniors this year, two juniors and two sophomores. I have four girls who are either pushing 6-feet or are 6-feet. Michaela has been a solid force at the net and a vacuum in the backcourt. Sara Warnock has adjusted very well to her new position of opposite. Her hit gets more powerful every day. Mandy and Emily Sampson have improved every match at libero. The three setters, led by Karlee Biskup, have been working hard to run our offense.”
Greely was home with NYA Wednesday and hosts Cony Friday. Tuesday, the Rangers visit Scarborough. Three huge tests remain for the champs: Sept. 24 at home versus Biddeford, Oct. 5 at Falmouth and Oct. 16 at home against the Yachtsmen.
“Falmouth looks to be a very tough opponent in the coming weeks, plus, the Tigers will be coming to our town for a rematch,” Hasch said.
NYA (which is in Class B) is seeking its first victory. The Panthers (10th in the Heal Points) have dropped 3-0 decisions to Kennebunk (11-25, 22-25, 18-25) and Scarborough (17-25, 14-25, 5-25), then lost a four-setter to Yarmouth. They host Cape Elizabeth Monday.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com