Greely volleyball falls at home to Biddeford
CUMBERLAND—The defending Class A state champion Greely volleyball team hoped to avenge its lone loss when it hosted Biddeford Wednesday evening, but despite having golden opportunities, couldn't make key plays at pivotal times and suffered a 3-0 defeat to the Tigers, by 21-25, 23-25 and 22-25 scores.
The Rangers were right there with a chance to win each game, but on the final points, Biddeford got the job done as it improved to 6-0, dropping Greely to 4-2 in the process.
"We had difficulty playing under pressure," said Rangers coach Kelvin Hasch. "(Biddeford seems) to be happy and having fun and they were able to close it out each time. I would think we could handle pressure, but we haven't been able to do it yet. We're not believing in ourselves. People are hesitating, not going after the ball."
Since becoming a varsity program in 2002, Greely has had no peer. The Rangers lost in five games to Woodland in the state final that first season, then won it all seven straight times. The run ended in 2010 with a loss to eventual champion Biddeford in the semifinals, but last fall, Greely returned to form, winning every match en route to another title.
This season, the Rangers opened at the Tigers and lost in four games (27-29, 20-25, 25-23, 20-25). Greely then dispatched Lake Region and Falmouth, 3-0, Kennebunk by a 3-1 margin and North Yarmouth Academy (3-0).
In addition to beating the Rangers, Biddeford entered the match having defeated Cape Elizabeth, Scarborough, Kennebunk and Mt. Desert Island by 3-0 scores.
Last season, Greely handled the Tigers, 3-0 in Biddeford and 3-0 at home.
Wednesday, all three games featured ties and lead changes galore, protracted volleys and in the end, clutch play by the visitors, who managed to win in Cumberland for just the second time (2010 was the other).
The first game featured eight ties and five lead changes, the last when the Tigers erased a 16-15 deficit with four straight points. The Rangers (who had four kills from senior Kristen Atwood) pulled within 21-20 before Biddeford put it away, 25-21, on a point which ended with an unforced Greely error.
Game two was even closer with nine ties and six lead changes. A pair of aces from Atwood gave the Rangers a short-lived lead and a kill from senior Haleigh Roach made it 15-12 Greely, but the Tigers scored five straight points. The Rangers drew even at 18-18 and 19-19, but again, Biddeford saved its best for last, going up for good at 20-19. With the Tigers up, 24-21, Greely answered and pulled within 24-23, but a kill from Katelyn Lebreux gave Biddeford the game, 25-23, pushing the Rangers to the brink.
Greely shook off an early deficit in the third game, going up by as much as 11-6 and later 16-12 before the Tigers rallied. Biddeford ran off six straight points in one stretch, but the hosts came back to lead, 21-18, thanks to a kill from junior Jordynne Copp. Up 22-19, the Rangers were on the verge of extending the match and perhaps planting a seed of doubt in the Tigers' minds, but Biddeford wouldn't lose another point. Seven straight points ended it and the match concluded with a Greely hit that sailed out of bounds.
Biddeford 3 Greely 0.
Tigers coach Ruth Shaw was thrilled with her team's effort.
"This is big for us," Shaw said. "It's a huge deal. You have to respect a program that has won as often as they've won. They're a great bunch of kind and polite kids. They're skilled. Right now, we have depth and that's paid off for us. This is the first year I have a nice bench. This is a cohesive group. They back each other up. Even if we get down a few points, they don't get flustered. I haven't had a team handle pressure the way they handle pressure. We made sure the girls saw the holes, got their serves over and saw their passes.
"It took us a long time to get a win against Greely in 2010. To do that and win a state championship was huge, but to take both matches this season is huge. In the first game, I felt we were good. I thought we came out with a strong attitude. We got our serves in and played really well. We got tired in the third game and had some long volleys and had trouble getting serves in, but we didn't get too high about winning a volley or too low about losing a volley. It was composure and skill on these girls' part. They can all play. I have a second team who could play and beat most of the other teams in the state. The girls are just really strong. The nine seniors have been together a long time. They grew each year."
Hasch paid tribute to the victors.
"Biddeford's a very good team," he said. "They came to play. We came to play, but we made more mistakes. Good teams can't make mistakes and we haven't figured that out yet. If we took the third game, maybe we get in their head a little bit. Each time, we got to 19, 20, 21, we couldn't close."
Long way to go
Biddeford (first in the Class A Heal Points standings) is back in action Friday at Falmouth. The Tigers go to Scarborough Monday. Biddeford is well aware that it might have to beat Greely once more in the playoffs.
"A third win would be a tough one," Shaw said.
The Rangers (sixth in Class A) host Windham Monday. Greely still has to face Gorham, Scarborough, Yarmouth and Falmouth.
The team isn't panicking yet and knows its best days are to come.
"I think things are coming along fine," said Hasch. "We won't be in first place or have an undefeated season, but I still see others have to go through us to get that (Gold) ball."