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Falmouth edges Yarmouth in volleyball thriller

Sports

Falmouth edges Yarmouth in volleyball thriller

(Ed. Note: Falmouth coach Gary Powers and his players weren't available after the match)

FALMOUTH—The Falmouth and Yarmouth volleyball teams won't meet in the postseason, but after Monday night's five-set classic, local fans can only wish that they would.

The defending Class B champion Clippers and perennially strong Class A Yachtsmen produced a memorable late season match, rife with Heal Points implications.

After Yarmouth raced to a quick start behind the heroics of senior Gina Robertson and won the first game, 25-21, Falmouth took over, prevailing 25-13 and 25-14 to seemingly seize control of the match. The Clippers weren't done by any means, however, and held on for a 25-18 victory in game four to set up a winner-take-all fifth set. There, Yarmouth scored the first four points, but the Yachtsmen returned to life and won 15 of the final 16 to win, 15-5, and take the scintillating match, 3-2.

Falmouth improved to 7-3 with the victory and dropped Yarmouth to 9-3.

"Talk about a momentum game," said Clippers coach Jim Senecal. "It was really something. I thought after Falmouth took games two and three, I didn't know my kids could do what they did coming back in game four. I'm really proud of them. Our team came out with a lot of energy. Falmouth's a great team. For us to play like we did against that team is good for us and for our program. We gave it everything we had and we lost to a better team."

Down to the wire

Yarmouth, despite losing some key players to graduation, has picked right up where it left off in 2012, opening its title defense with wins over North Yarmouth Academy (3-0), Cape Elizabeth (3-0), Bucksport (3-1) and Jonesport-Beals (3-2). After a 3-0 loss to Gorham, the Clippers beat Lake Region (3-0), Cheverus (3-2) and Cony (3-0). Last Thursday, Yarmouth was surprised by Windham, 3-2, but bounced back on a trip Downeast Saturday, with 3-0 wins over Sumner and Narraguagus.

Falmouth, a semifinalist in 2011 after falling in the state championship match the two prior seasons, opened with 3-2 loss to Gorham. After downing Cheverus and Cony by 3-0 scores, the Yachtsmen were blanked at Greely, 3-0. Falmouth bounced back to beat Cheverus and Windham by 3-0 margins. After a 3-1 loss to undefeated Biddeford, the Yachtsmen downed Cape Elizabeth (3-0) and NYA (3-0).

Yarmouth entered Monday's match having only beaten Falmouth once previously, a 3-2 decision in 2010. Last fall, the Yachtsmen enjoyed a 3-1 home victory in the teams' lone meeting.

This one would feature 100 minutes of back and forth action.

Robertson set the tone by serving the first five points of the first game, including three aces. Falmouth would eventually stem the tide, but the Clippers pushed their lead to 13-5 on a Robertson kill, forcing Powers to call timeout. The hosts gradually closed the gap behind a kill and an ace from senior Danielle Li, but when Robertson's highlight reel dig led to a point and a 19-14 lead, Yarmouth appeared home free. Instead, Falmouth pulled within 19-18, 20-19, 21-20 and 22-21, but each time, the Clippers won the next point and when Robertson delivered her fourth ace of the game, Yarmouth closed it out, 25-21.

The Clippers got the first two points of the second game as well, but this time, the Yachtsmen took control, going up for good at 5-4, extending the lead behind a pair of kills from junior Katrina Merserve and never looking back en route to a 25-13 triumph. A Meserve ace was the punctuation mark.

Falmouth controlled the third game as well, even though it once again fell behind, 2-0. An ace from junior Riley Burfeind put the Yachtsmen ahead to stay. Kills from Meserve and sophomore Ally Hickey forged a healthy lead. Yarmouth tried to rally behind an ace and a kill from Robertson and even made it 15-10 when junior Grace Mallett delivered an ace, but Falmouth pulled away again and an ace from Li and a Clippers miscue finished it off, 25-14.

Yarmouth could have easily packed it in, but instead returned to form in game four. For the fourth game in a row, the Clippers scored first. After the Yachtsmen tied the score, a pair of aces from junior Maddy Maierhofer helped open up a 6-1 lead. Falmouth tried to rally behind an ace from Li and a kill from senior Anna Hickey, but Yarmouth junior Emma Maierhofer produced a pair of aces and the lead was up to 10-4. The hosts got back within 10-6, but could draw no closer. A 9-2 run made it 19-8 and a kill from junior Kristina Borderia and an ace from Maddy Maierhofer put the win within reach, but the Yachtsmen scored five straight points to make things interesting, 24-18. After a Senecal timeout, a bad Falmouth serve gave Yarmouth the game, 25-18, forcing the decisive set.

Fifth sets are played to 15 and when Robertson got things started with an ace which tickled the net before falling over, it looked like the visitors might have good fortune on their side. Junior Hannah Elrich delivered a kill and Robertson served two more points, capped by an ace and just like that, the Clippers were up, 4-0.

That would prove to be Yarmouth's highwater mark.

Falmouth would score 15 of the final 16 points. An ace from Burfeind got things started. A kill from Li put the Yachtsmen ahead for good, 5-4. A Burfeind ace was followed by kills from Meserve, Meserve again and Ally Hickey, an ace from senior Natalie Kuhn, an ace from Meserve and a Meserve kill for a 13-5 lead. One point later, Kuhn closed it out with an ace and Falmouth was able to celebrate the victory.

Yarmouth was disappointed with the outcome, but battled hard to the end.

"It was definitely rewarding," Robertson said. "I've never seen my team work this hard. We really wanted it. We didn't succeed, but I think we succeeded as a team in the sense we played our hearts out. We really just wanted it. We have great energy. We work hard every practice and every game. We know how to push ourselves. It looked really good, but they have an amazing outside hitter. She's a great player."

Robertson's play drew raves from her coach.

"I've coached a lot of years and I don't know if I've had a senior who plays with that much heart," Senecal said. "It just pours out of her. She takes the team on her shoulders and just lifts it up. She's a very unique, special athlete. A special kid."

Yarmouth was at a decided disadvantage at the net, as Falmouth boasts much more size. The Clippers almost were able to overcome, however.

"We're not a tall team at all, but we work with what we have," Robertson said. "We have amazing back row players. Our libero and our other back row player, (senior) Lindsay Tyler, had great games today. They both work really hard. Almost all of our girls play on the Junior Olympic team. All the underclassmen have worked hard to get to varsity."

"We have a good, strong back row," said Senecal. "We've mixed it up with a couple defensive specialist. Maddy Maierhofer is really tough back there. She dives all over the place. Lindsay Tyler is a senior who is a good specialist. We're not blocking anybody, not the way I'd like to be. Their kids rise way up over the net and our kids try to do the best they can."

Playoff jockeying

Falmouth (seventh in the Class A Heal Points standings at press time, but due to move up) is back in action Wednesday at Kennebunk. The Yachtsmen host Scarborough Friday and close the regular season at home Oct. 12 against Greely.

Yarmouth (third in Class B) hopes to bounce back Thursday, but it won't be easy as defending champion Greely pays a visit. The Clippers close the regular season Oct. 10 at NYA.

"If we play like we did tonight, we will be right there in the end," said Senecal. "There are some good teams in Class B this year, but our performance tonight, if we can carry it through, we'll be OK."

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Photo: R. Steven Sharp / For The Forecaster

Yarmouth senior Gina Robertson delivers a serve. Robertson's stellar play helped the Clippers push the match to the wire.

Photo: R. Steven Sharp / For The Forecaster

Yarmouth junior Abigail Latham looks to return a shot.

Photo: R. Steven Sharp / For The Forecaster

Yarmouth junior Kristina Borderia skies for a shot while Falmouth senior Danielle Li defends.

Photo: R. Steven Sharp / For The Forecaster

Falmouth's height proved to be the difference Monday as sophomore Ally Hickey (left) and junior Kristina Meserve loomed large at the net.

Photo: R. Steven Sharp / For The Forecaster

Falmouth sophomore Ally Hickey and Yarmouth senior Kate Myers meet at the net.

Photo: R. Steven Sharp / For The Forecaster

Yarmouth senior Gina Robertson tries to run down a loose ball.