Greely volleyball handles Scarborough in state rematch
SCARBOROUGH—After waiting nearly a calendar year, the Scarborough volleyball team finally got a chance to avenge its state championship match loss when the defending champion Greely Rangers paid a visit Wednesday evening.
But as has been the case every time the Red Storm has faced the Rangers over the years, it didn't end well.
Greely, which appears to have turned its game up several notches with the calendar now reading October, raced to a 20-6 lead in the first set and never look back, downing Scarborough, 3-0, by scores of 25-14, 25-13, 25-17.
The Rangers excelled in their passing game, dominated at the net thanks to seniors Kristen Atwood, Dani Cimino and Haleigh Roach and junior Jordynne Copp, and consistently hit the ground to save shots and keep play alive.
Greely improved to 8-2, while dropping the Red Storm to 9-3.
"We're playing together really, really well," said Atwood. "Everyone's talking and being positive and it's really helped. We've worked really hard in practice. Everyone is playing so well at the net. At the beginning of the season there was a little uncertainty, but now everyone knows where they're supposed to be and it's great."
We meet again
While Greely has been the gold standard in Maine high school volleyball for a decade, winning eight of the past nine championships, Scarborough has slowly moved its way toward the top.
The teams squared off in the Class A state match a year ago, with Greely taking a hard fought match in four sets, 25-19, 19-25, 25-21, 25-21.
The Rangers were hit hard by graduation, losing several key players, including 2011 Fall Female Athlete of the Year, Maggie Bradley, but have remained competitive, losing only two matches, at Biddeford in four games and at home to Biddeford in three. Since that setback, Greely had dispatched Windham, Gorham and Cony by 3-0 scores.
The Red Storm also were hit by graduation, losing 2011 Fall Female Athlete of the Year Brittany Bona, among others, but has stayed near the top of the standings. Scarborough won nine of its first 11 matches, like Greely, only losing to Biddeford twice.
The Rangers had beaten the Red Storm in all 18 prior meetings, including three times last year (both regular season encounters entered 3-1 as well).
Wednesday, on Breast Cancer Awareness Night, Greely, which wore pink as its predominant uniform color, did it again.
Scarborough did win the first point of the match, but the Rangers soon took control, taking the lead for good on a kill from Roach. A kill from Atwood pushed the lead to 7-2 and forced Red Storm coach Jon Roberts to call timeout.
It didn't work as a kill from Roach, another from Atwood and an ace from junior Lexi Foster made it 11-2. Greely went ahead by as much as 20-6 before the hosts began to rally.
Kills from juniors Abby Mills and Natalie Foster and an ace from senior Meghan Lynch made it 20-10 and the Red Storm even got to 22-13, but the Rangers closed it out, 25-14, fittingly on a kill from Atwood.
Blocks by senior Cameron Bowker and Lynch gave Scarborough an early 3-2 lead in the second set, but again, Greely opened it up to 9-4. The Red Storm rallied and behind kills from Mills and Lynch and a Lynch block, pulled within 9-8, but the Rangers won the next six points, punctuated by a kill from Copp, for a 15-8 lead. A kill from Foster and an ace from sophomore Kayla Savage cut the deficit to 16-12, but another Greely 6-0 run, capped by a kill from sophomore Lauren Weickert, made it 22-12. An ace from junior Michaela Weeks brought the Rangers to the brink and they won the next point as well to capture the game, 25-13.
Scarborough hoped to rally in the third set and got off to a great start by winning the first five points, capped by an ace from Savage. Greely wasted no time rallying, however, rattling off eight straight points, capped by a kill from Cimino following a Roberts timeout. After the Red Storm momentarily stemmed the tide, the Rangers Express rolled on by winning eight of the next nine points, punctuated by a Cimino kill, for a commanding 16-7 lead. To its credit, Scarborough never gave up and made it a 17-11 contest on an ace from junior Erin Quirk, but another Greely run, this one featuring an ace from Copp and a dig, then a kill from Roach, made it 21-11.
"It's so much fun to go to the floor," said Atwood, of her team's many digs. "It's just reading the play."
"I told them they'd have to do 20 sprawls every practice until I saw it on the court," said Hasch. "I don't know what I'm going to do now."
A kill from Atwood put the Rangers on the brink, up, 24-13, but the Red Storm kept the match alive with three straight points, forcing Hasch to call timeout. Scarborough won one more point before Greely finally wrapped up the match on a Roach kill, ending the third set and the match, 25-17.
The Rangers' dominance at the net was evident by their 35 kills (Roach had 14, Atwood nine, Cimino six, Copp five and junior Krystyna Rybka one). Copp also had four blocks, Roach two and Cimino one. Defensively,Foster had 10 digs, while Rybka added eight. Cimino and Copp each had four and Roach three. Greely also had 12 aces (five from Foster, two each from Cimino and Rybka and one apiece from Atwood, Copp and Roach).
The Rangers may have shown signs of weakness at times this season, but the perennial champs appear to be rounding into form.
"We had some kinks to work out," Atwood said. "We had some new people come to varsity. Everyone was finding their place, but we're here now. We just clicked really, really well. We expected a good game and got a good game. They played really, really hard."
"We're starting to click," said Hasch. "When it gets close to the end, we'll be there. It was experience and getting a few people to play as a team. I use eight players. It's hard to get eight players to play as a team. Now, we're jelling and playing together. We've worked a lot on passing and serve receives. I think it showed. Kristen was on fire tonight. It's good to see her come around. Haleigh took the ball when she had an opportunity. The two liberos, Foster and Krystina, that we're using, are eating up the ball."
Roberts paid tribute to Greely's effort.
"Greely played very strong," Roberts said. "They didn't make any mistakes. I think they earned their points. They didn't let the ball hit the floor. They're a great team. They're playing well. They didn't make mistakes and put the pressure on us. They're mentally strong and believe they're going to win every time. I think we came in thinking we could compete. They just outplayed us tonight. I don't know if it was mental. I'm sure it's in the back of their minds it was Greely, but we've beaten them in tournaments that don't count. I didn't think we fought very hard in the first game. We were shellshocked. I was happy with how we fought back in the second and third games.
"Our focus has been on not making mistakes. That's not good enough. We had to be more aggressive and put pressure on them. My hitters need to be more aggressive. We've worked on not making mistakes that killed us at the beginning of the season. That's good enough against some of the middle teams. Now, we need to hit and block better and take pressure off the defense. I think our defense is better than we showed today."
The Red Storm (fifth in the Class A Heal Points standings at press time) finishes the regular season with matches at Falmouth Friday and at home versus Gorham Oct. 12.
Scarborough still hopes to earn a top playoff seed and make it back to the final Saturday of the season.
"We have two good matches left," said Roberts. "If we play the right way, we can compete against both of those teams. We need to put this behind us and play tough against those teams."
The Rangers (seventh in Class A, prior to this win being calculated) are at defending Class B champion Yarmouth Thursday, then play at Cape Elizabeth (Oct. 10) and Falmouth (Oct. 12) before closing at home with Cheverus (Oct. 15).
Greely knows it will ultimately be judged by what it does in the playoffs and despite its ups and downs, feels it could finish on top once more.
"We're peaking," Atwood said. "I think we'll do well. There's going to be some competition out there. That makes it fun. We'd like another championship. That would be nice."
"I think we're starting to peak," Hasch said. "We've still got room to improve. I'm happy if we finish sixth. I'd rather play than have time off. Wherever we're at, we're at. It's a whole new season in the playoffs. The Heals don't matter then. No one should be overlooking Greely."
After Wednesday night's dominance, it's unlikely anyone will be.