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Scarborough volleyball finally vanquishes Greely

Sports

Scarborough volleyball finally vanquishes Greely

SCARBOROUGH—For nearly a decade, in matches lopsided and down to the wire, the Scarborough volleyball team just couldn't find a way to beat the Greely Rangers, the state's gold standard.

The Red Storm almost did it last year in the Class A semifinals, but fell just short and Greely went on to win another championship.

Thursday evening, however, Scarborough got another crack at the Rangers and for awhile, it looked like history would repeat, as the Red Storm let a first set lead slip away.

But this Scarborough squad believes it it different and sure enough, it took sets two and three with relative ease, but the Red Storm knew finishing Greely off wouldn't come easily.

When Scarborough let a 22-17 lead slip away and faced set point, it was a crossroads, but fortune would finally be on the Red Storm's side, as it won the final three points to take the set, 26-24, and the match, 3-1.

At long last, for one night at least, Scarborough was better than its longtime tormentor.

"It means a lot for the program," said Red Storm coach Jon Roberts. "It wasn't just another match. It means a lot to the kids. It's confidence building going forward. We have a bunch of goals. Once of our goals was getting this monkey off our back. It was nice doing it here in our gym."

One-sided

While Scarborough has become very competitive in recent seasons, it hadn't been able to beat its pedigreed nemesis.

Entering Thursday's match, the Rangers had won all 20 previous meetings (please see sidebar, below), including a pair in 2012, 3-0 in the regular season and a 3-2 epic in the Class A semifinals.

Greely opened its season with a thrilling five-set victory over Biddeford (in a state final rematch) Tuesday.

Scarborough, meanwhile, had no trouble with visiting Thornton Academy or Cony in 3-0 victories, but those were mere tuneups and this team knew it would get a true barometer when Greely came calling.

This time around, the Red Storm tempted fate, but was able to finally exorcise its demons.

The first set was epic, as the teams found themselves tied 15 times and the lead changed hands on nine occasions.

Scarborough was up, 10-5, but Greely slowly chipped away and took an 18-15 lead on an ace from sophomore Alex Tebbs. The Red Storm battled back to lead, 21-19, when Cleary registered a kill, but the Rangers retook the lead, 22-21, as senior Emily Warnock registered a kill. A kill from senior standout Mary Cleary sparked a 3-0 Scarborough run, putting the hosts on the verge of prevailing in the set, but consecutive Warnock aces tied the score.

Once the score reaches 24-24, a team has to win by two and it would take quite awhile until that happened.

Greely went up, 25-24, but a kill from Red Storm junior Kayla Savage made it 25-25.

Scarborough went ahead, 26-25, but an attempted kill from Cleary went just wide. The Red Storm took a 27-26 lead, but again the Rangers tied it up on a service fault.

A kill by Tebbs put the visitors on the brink, but a kill from Scarborough senior Natalie Foster tied it at 28-28.

Greely went ahead again, 29-28, but hit the ball out on the next point, extending the set further.

Then, after a kill from junior Lauren Weickert, the Rangers ended the marathon game as senior Lexi Foster (who was superb all game) delivered an ace to give Greely what proved to be its lone set, 31-29.

The Rangers did what they've done countless times during their decade-plus of dominance, rally to steal a set and seemingly break the will of the opposition in the process.

"We squeaked that out and I thought we were pumped to go out and really give it to them," longtime Greely coach Kelvin Hasch said. "It didn't happen."

That's because Scarborough would have none of it.

"We were nervous in the first game, especially when they started to come back," Roberts said. "They had a wave of momentum. It was like, 'Oh no, not again.' I just told them that we didn't need to change what we were doing. To stay aggressive. We made tiny adjustments to how we were blocking, but I was happy with how we played in that first game. I thought we just sort of stopped playing aggressive when the momentum went to them. I thought we took our hits down to 50 percent, when going 75 percent would have been a smart thing to do. Our game plan was to mix it up."

If the Red Storm was reeling, it didn't show it, never trailing in the second set.

Clinging to a 7-6 lead, Scarborough rattled off seven straight points to seize control. A pair of aces from Savage pushed it to 20-9 and an ace from Cleary and a kill from senior Hallie Odonnell ended it, 25-11.

Greely took a short-lived 3-1 lead in the third game, but the Red Storm won seven straight points to turn the tide. Like the second set, Scarborough gradually pulled way, going from a 10-6 lead to a 20-9 advantage. The Rangers got back to 22-14, but a kill from senior Amy Gubrud, another point and a kill from Cleary gave the hosts a 25-14 victory and put them on the brink of doing something that had never before been done.

The Red Storm would eventually close out the match, but not before Greely made it sweat.

The Rangers led the fourth set, 2-0, 4-1 and 5-2 before Scarborough rallied. The match was tied, 5-5, 7-7 and 10-10, then Greely went up, 14-11, but the Red Storm stayed confident and chipped away and went ahead, 16-15. The lead eventually mushroomed to 22-17, but the Rangers had one last rally, pulling even at 23-23 as Warnock delivered an ace. When a kill from senior Jordynne Copp put Greely ahead, 24-23, it looked like Scarborough would be demoralized once more.

Not this edition of the Red Storm.

A kill from Savage tied the score. Then, after a long volley, featuring clutch hits from both teams, the Rangers hit the ball into the net and Scarborough was on the brink.

Not surprisingly, it would be Cleary who ended it, smashing a kill and as the clock read 7:48 p.m., the Red Storm had a 3-1 (29-31, 25-11, 25-14, 26-24) triumph.

"We ended it on a high note," Cleary said. "I was hoping it would come to me, but I would have been happy for anyone who got that kill. It means a lot to us. We talked about last year a lot, especially in the summertime. I don't think (losing the first game) was bad. We fought through it and it fueled our next three games. We're really close and we trust each other and know we can get back from anything."

"It means a lot for the program," Roberts said. "We've had kids who had a lot of personal accolades who weren't able to say they could beat that team. We tried hard to make it just another tough match and not focus on the name on their shirts. I could tell it meant a lot to our kids. Everyone on the floor's a senior. They're confident in each other, a close group.

"We had preseason games where it went back and forth and I asked them if they wanted me to call a timeout when it was close and they said no, they just wanted to play. In the fourth game, my assistant asked if I wanted to call timeout and I said, 'No, let's just play it through.' I was proud they continued to be aggressive and especially that last play. It would have been easy for (Mary) to back off that last swing and instead she was aggressive."

Cleary was clearly the best player on the floor, registering 17 kills and six digs.

"I think she's an all-state player," Roberts said. "I thought she got snubbed last year."

Scarborough also got eight kills and seven digs from Savage, 23 assists from senior Lauren Piper, 20 assists from Odonnell and 11 kills and three digs from senior Abby Mills.

Greely, which got six kills apiece from freshman Kayley Cimino and Warnock, found itself in an unfamiliar position.

"We came out flat and forgot how to pass the ball," Hasch said. "When you can't pass the ball, you can't hit the ball. We came back and they were squirming over there, but we didn't get a good call at the right time. That's part of the game. I'm proud of the girls coming back. They showed you can't count us out."

Fun just beginning

Greely looks to bounce back Monday when it hosts Windham Monday. The Rangers go to rival Falmouth Wednesday and play at Kennebunk next Friday.

"I think we can play with anybody, but we're not communicating right now at all," Hasch said. "People aren't passing the way they should be. If you're going to play at this level, you have to talk and we're not talking. We have Falmouth coming in. If we get it together, we should be able to play with Falmouth."

Scarborough, meanwhile, hopes to keep the good times rolling Monday when it hosts Gorham. A trip to Biddeford follows Wednesday.

"(This is) just one more step to our ultimate goal," said Cleary. "We hope to make the finals and take our chances from there. We just need to trust each other and keep our intensity up every game."

Looking ahead, the Rangers host the Red Storm Oct. 1. A third meeting (in the playoffs) is likely to follow.

"We have them in our gym (next time)," Hasch said. "They'll have to beat us in our gym. In the history of our program, only (Biddeford and Falmouth have) beaten us in our gym."

"(Greely's) always a tough team and they'll be there at the end," Roberts said. "I'm sure they'll play us tough when we go there because of the revenge factor."

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

Previous Greely-Scarborough meetings

2012
Greely 3 @ Scarborough 0
Class A semifinal
@ Greely 3 Scarborough 2

2011
@ Greely 3 Scarborough 1
Greely 3 @ Scarborough 1
Class A State Final
Greely 3 Scarborough 1

2010
@ Greely 3 Scarborough 0
Greely 3 @ Scarborough 2

2009
Greely 3 @ Scarborough 1
@ Greely 3 Scarborough 0
Class A quarterfinals
@ Greely 3 Scarborough 0

2008
Greely 3 @ Scarborough 0
@ Greely 3 Scarborough 0

2007
@ Greely 3 Scarborough 0
Greely 3 @ Scarborough 0

2006
@ Greely 3 Scarborough 0
Greely 3 @ Scarborough 0

2005
Greely 3 @ Scarborough 0
@ Greely 3 Scarborough 0

2004
@ Greely 3 Scarborough 0
Greely 3 @ Scarborough 0