(Editor’s note: For the complete Greely-Scarborough match story, with additional photos, as well as the Yarmouth-Bucksport match story, please visit theforecaster.net)
The old and the new were the themes of the volleyball state championship matches Saturday.
In Class A, Greely won its eighth title in nine years with a hard-fought 3-1 victory over Scarborough.
In Class B, Yarmouth, in its first year at that level, finished on top for the first time with a 3-0 win over Bucksport.
Saturday evening at Windham High School, the indisputable two best teams in Class A did battle for the title.
Greely, which lost in the semifinals to eventual champion Biddeford a year ago, went 14-0 in the regular season and downed No. 5 Falmouth, 3-0, in the semifinals to advance.
The Rangers desire to return to championship form this year was made even more acute by their fervent wish to win another title for longtime assistant coach Bruce Churchill, who has Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Scarborough finished second with a 12-2 mark and went into the postseason in the third spot. The Red Storm blanked both No. 6 Ellsworth and No. 7 Gorham to earn a trip to the school’s first state final.
Entering the state final, the Rangers and Red Storm had 17 prior encounters with Greely winning every time. That included a pair of 3-1 decisions this fall, 25-20, 28-26, 13-25, 25-19, at Scarborough Sept. 15, and 25-20, 25-16, 23-25, 25-20 at home Sept. 30.
The teams’ lone prior playoff meeting resulted in a 3-0 Rangers’ victory in the 2009 semifinals.
This state final would follow a similar script as the Red Storm was in position to emerge triumphant, but in the end, Greely was the team dancing in celebration.
Both squads were nervous in the early going, committing unforced errors, but a 5-0 Rangers’ run (behind a pair of aces from senior Emily Sampson) sent Greely on its way. Greely went up, 19-13, behind a kill from Sampson and the closest Scarborough got the rest of the game was 21-18 and the Rangers closed out their 25-19 first game win when after a Red Storm serve went awry.
Greely senior standout Maggie Bradley had four kills in that game, but Scarborough’s star senior Brittany Bona made her presence felt in the second game with six kills and an ace as the Red Storm made things very interesting, rolling to a 25-19 triumph.
The match would hinge on game three. There, Greely changed its blocking approach and rallied from a 10-6 deficit to win, 25-21, drawing within a game of the title.
“When we got down, we were definitely nervous, but we had to recognize the fact we weren’t playing to our full ability,” Bradley said. “Everyone got energized and we went from flat feet to running around and getting tough balls.”
“Our plan was not to serve to Brittany and keep the ball away from her,” Hasch added. “We tried to neutralize them as much as possible.”
In game four, Greely had to rally from a 17-11 deficit as the Rangers showed their championship heart and finished strong.
A kill from Bradley (who else?) got the rally started. Three Bradley aces in four points tied the game and a Bradley kill capped the 7-0 run and gave the Rangers an 18-17 lead. The Red Storm pulled even at 20-20, but Sampson’s kill put the Rangers on top to stay. Sampson had a kill on the next point (she finished with seven) and after back-to-back errors by Scarborough, Greely had a 24-20 lead. The Red Storm stayed alive by winning the next point, but the match came to an end when Scarborough hit the ball into the net and the Rangers were champions once more.
“We love each other so much and we had the extra motivation to do it for ‘Church,'” said senior Ellie Weickert (three blocks, two kills). “It’s been a great year. This is my first state championship and I’ve never felt a better feeling. We all just meshed so well this year.”
“We’re all so excited,” said Bradley, who finished with 17 kills and four aces. “It’s amazing. It’s exactly what we wanted all season. Awesome is the best descriptor. We really, really wanted this. We were hoping we wouldn’t be forced to settle for anything but a championship. It’s a perfect ending to a perfect season.”
“It’s awesome to see volleyball come up to this level,” Hasch added. “I’m lucky I had a great team this year. This one’s really sweet. We wanted it really bad for Bruce. (The girls) came in from day one setting the goal high. I was thinking maybe it shouldn’t be so high, but they wanted that goal and they achieved it. I’m so excited there’s finally a Gold Ball (trophy). When I saw that, I knew we had to win it. No one else should take it home.”
Greely will make a run at title number nine next fall.
“I think we’ll be in the thick of it again next year,” said Hasch.
Yarmouth went 7-8 in 2010, losing to perennial powerhouse Greely in the Class A quarterfinals. The Clippers moved to Class B this fall and went 10-4 in the regular season, losing only to Greely, Scarborough, Biddeford and Falmouth. A seven-match win streak turned their season. Yarmouth got a huge boost this year when senior Morgan Cahill returned to the program.
The Clippers finished third in the Heal Points standings and began their playoff run with a 3-0 home win over No. 6 Machias. Yarmouth then had to travel all the way up to No. 2 Calais, but it was worth the trip as the Clippers prevailed, 3-0. That set a date with a Bucksport squad that Yarmouth knew little about.
The Clippers quickly learned that the Golden Bucks would be a very difficult out.
In the first game, Bucksport jumped to an early 5-3 lead, but junior Gina Robertson delivered four successive service points, two of which were punctuated by Cahill kills to put Yarmouth on top. Successive aces from sophomore Grace Mallett and a Cahill kill (assisted by Mallett) pushed the lead to 18-12. Junior Lindsay Tyler then served out the game and the Clippers prevailed, 25-19.
In the second game, Yarmouth fell behind early and was down 14-11 before senior captain Suzanne Driscoll had four successive service points to get the Clippers back in it. Yarmouth then went up 23-15 before senior Lydia Ruetty served out the final point for a 25-21 triumph.
That set the stage for the third game. Again, Bucksport jumped out early, up 10-6, but Tyler came through again, delivering seven successive service points (including three aces) to put the Clippers on top to stay, 13-10. The Golden Bucks were still within 19-17 late, but Robertson served out the final six points of the match, helped by a pair of Ruetty kills.
The winning point provided an anxious moment.
“Ruetty collected the final kill, which hit the top of the net and seemed to hover there for awhile before it calmly dropped onto the Bucksport side and sealed the match,” said Yarmouth coach Jim Senecal.
“The final point was kind of scary,” Driscoll said. “We had to wait for the ball to drop on the floor, then everyone went crazy.”
At last, the Clippers were number one.
“Grace’s aces gave us some energy,” Cahill said. “Lydia had some hits that helped us out too. We knew their style of play was defensive so we kept that mindset. We just played our game.”
“It was exciting because it’s the first time for Yarmouth volleyball,” senior captain Bailey Sheehan said.
“Morgan proved why she’s an (first-team all-state) all-star with a dominant performance,” Senecal added. “Her 12 kills, consistant serves and solid back row play helped lead the way for us. Suzanne (six kills) would tell you that she didn’t have her best offensive game, but she more than made up for it with her defense. Her ability to read hitters is and to get to the spot is second to none. I think Lydia (four kills) saved her best game for when we needed her the most as she played outstanding today. Lindsay consistently delivered great passes to our setter and got our offense going for us. She also had her best serving day of the year. We got strong consistent play from everyone all year.”
When the Clippers got back to Yarmouth, they were honored.
“It was cool to have the parade down Main Street,” Cahill said. “We had a good time.”
Yarmouth will have a very different look next year after losing Cahill, Driscoll, Ruetty and Sheehan, along with Sarah Crommett, Amelia Gallay and Megan Haley, but after tasting a title, look for next year’s team to make another deep run.
“We will really miss our seven terrific seniors who brought much more than just skill to help us achieve this goal,” Senecal said. “They believed that they could be champions and helped the others believe it as well. Whether they were starters on the court, or pushing those starters every day in practice, they were terrific.
“We return three starters from this year’s squad, along with a couple of other juniors who saw quite a lot of playing time this season. With a strong core group of returning players and an excellent pool of newcomers, we’ll be looking forward to more success in 2012.”
The Yarmouth girls’ volleyball team celebrates after winning the Class B championship Saturday, the first crown in program history.
The Class A champion Greely Rangers pose with their trophy after winning an eight championship in nine seasons Saturday night.