(Ed. Note for the complete Greely-Falmouth match story, with additional photos, please visit theforecaster.net)
For a decade, the Greely volleyball team has built its legend on not just winning big matches, but by claiming the critical points within those matches, when the margin between victory and defeat is razor thin.
The Rangers are doing it again this fall and at press time found themselves a mere two victories from a mindboggling ninth state title in 10 years.
Greely overcame a sluggish 4-2 start to the season by winning its final eight matches to go 12-2 and earn the No. 2 seed behind Biddeford in Class A.
Saturday, the Rangers hosted No. 7 Falmouth in the quarterfinals and the rivals produced an epic match.
Greely thrice was a point away from losing the first set, but each time held firm and eventually prevailed, 28-26. After the Yachtsmen controlled the second set, 25-14, the Rangers were down, 10-5, in the third, but again did what they had to do to win, 25-21. When Falmouth was up 20-12 in the fourth game, it appeared as if the match was headed for a winner-take-all fifth, but again Greely had the answers and eked out a 25-23 victory to take the match 3-1.
“It was really stressful,” said Greely’s Haleigh Roach, who had 14 kills, 21 assists, five digs and a pair of aces. “There was a lot of pressure. We were able to hit around the block, instead of hitting right into it. They have one of the most powerful blocks we’ve seen so far. It was really important to hit around it. We’re used to the stress because we kind of dig ourselves in a hole. We know how to get out of it. We don’t panic.”
“It was interesting,” said Rangers standout Kristen Atwood, who added six aces and eight kills. “Sometimes we forget to talk. Then, we remember communication and we play like a team. We might get behind, but we stop and take a breath and do what we need to do. We have a history of getting down and crawling back. We saw the score and thought it was unacceptable and that we had to fix it and we did a good job. We were really exhilarated because we won, but there was some relief. It’s hard work being down and having to come back. Falmouth brought even more than we expected. They didn’t just play hard, but they played smart. Kudos to them. They made us work. They’re very good.”
“I don’t know how we do it,” added Greely coach/dynasty builder Kelvin Hasch. “I thought it was going to five (sets). I fully expected that kind of a match. This is a huge one.”
Falmouth once again came oh so close to beating Greely in the playoffs, but couldn’t quite finish the job and wound up 9-6.
“The last couple matches, we just couldn’t pull it off,” said Yachtsmen coach Gary Powers. “Losing Katrina (Meserve, to a shoulder injury) really hurt us. I think if Katrina had been healthy, it might have been a different story. We were playing well. There were some questionable calls and it takes the wind out of our sails. Greely’s a good team. They’re solid. You can’t make mistakes against them.”
Falmouth graduates seven seniors, but will return several key contributors when it makes another run at the top in 2013.
As for Greely, it faced a tough task Wednesday in the semifinals against No. 6 Scarborough. The Rangers beat the host Red Storm, 3-0 (25-14, 25-13, 25-17) Oct. 3. Greely had won the two prior playoff meetings, including 3-1 in last year’s state match.
The Rangers, who have devoted their season to late assistant coach Bruce Churchill, who passed away in the offseason after losing his battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, won’t settle for anything short of another championship.
“I think we can do it,” Roach said. “We’re on a mission, especially for (Churchill). We don’t want to go home without the Gold Ball.”
“I think we’ll have to be ready for a tough match,” said Atwood. “It’s semis. Everybody will bring their all. I think it will be like this match, but probably not with us down so much. Hopefully we’ll be in control. We want to get to states really bad. We really want to win it.”
“Scarborough has a couple great kids who can hit,” added Hasch. “I just think it will be a matter of who makes the least amount of errors. We hope we have two more (wins in us). That’s the goal.”
If Greely advanced to Saturday’s Class A state match (7 p.m. at Husson University in Bangor), it will likely meet undefeated, top ranked Biddeford and would have a chance to avenge its two regular season losses.
Yarmouth hoped to go back-to-back as Class B champion, but it wasn’t to be. After a 10-4 regular season, the Clippers earned the No. 4 seed in Class B and hosted fifth-ranked Machias in the quarterfinals Saturday. Yarmouth took the first set, 25-15, but dropped the next three, 14-25, 24-26, 20-25, to lose, 3-1, and finish the season 10-5. Kristina Borderia had seven kills and Grace Mallett six aces.
“I’ve got to give the Machias kids all the credit,” said Clippers coach Jim Senecal. “We came after them hard in game one. We were aggressive offensively and our serving was strong. Things started to change for us in game two. Machias jumped out to an early lead and with that, their confidence grew. We came at them, but they seemed to get to every ball. That got our girls a little frustrated and you could see our confidence start to fade a bit. Game three was the killer for us. We had them at 23-19 and couldn’t put them away as our girls tightened up at the end of that game. Once Machias got that game, the momentum and confidence from their side was too much for our girls. They jumped out to a 17-6 lead and despite a furious comeback, we couldn’t recover and dropped the final game.
“After the match, our girls were very disappointed. They were disappointed in their performance and in the knowledge that they weren’t going to repeat. More than anything else, however, was the disappointment that they felt that it all was suddenly over. This was a group of girls that absolutely loved coming to practice and being together every night. Volleyball means so much to them and to have that suddenly taken from them was tough.”
Yarmouth will lose some key contributors, but also returns plenty of talent next fall.
“We’ll miss our seniors,” said Senecal. “Kate Myers had a very solid year and was a consistent player all year long. Megan Smith brought our girls together with her energy and positive leadership. Lindsay Tyler had an illness that prevented her from playing in the quarterfinals. We missed her strong defense, along with her poise and confidence. Gina Robertson was a very special player. Her skill set isn’t as strong as the other top players in the league, but her determination, heart and love for the game are second to none. We will certainly miss her leadership. I hope our juniors recognize what she brought to our team and some of them will try to be the leader to next year’s team that she was.
“Next year’s team will be a strong group of seniors, all of whom saw meaningful playing time in 2012. We’re excited about our prospects for next year and can’t wait for our first summer session in June.”
Falmouth junior Kristina Meserve looks to block the shot of Greely senior Katie Ventre during the teams’ four-set thriller Saturday in the Class A quarterfinals. The defending state champion Rangers prevailed, 3-1.
Yarmouth junior LiLi Beatty stretches to reach the ball during Saturday’s Class B quarterfinal round playoff loss to Machias.