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Yarmouth volleyball closes superb regular season with emphatic win

Sports

Yarmouth volleyball closes superb regular season with emphatic win

YARMOUTH—The best regular season in the annals of the Yarmouth volleyball program is in the books.

And now the fun really begins.

Saturday afternoon, the Clippers made quick work of visiting Jonesport-Beals, winning three sets in a total of 45 minutes.

Yarmouth dominated every aspect of the match and improved to 13-1, but it didn't take long for the Clippers to turn their focus to the upcoming playoffs and their quest for a second Class B state championship in three seasons.

"It's been a fantastic season," said Yarmouth coach Jim Senecal. "I have terrific kids. I could have seen us somewhere around 10-4, something like that, but as the season went along and we won close matches, I knew we had a strong group. To go 13-1 is a surprise."

Almost perfect

After winning its first state championship in 2011, Yarmouth enjoyed a solid 10-4 campaign in 2012, but was upset by Machias in the Class B quarterfinals. This year's senior-laden squad came in hungry and unwilling to settle for anything short of another title run.

The Clippers enjoyed 3-0 wins at North Yarmouth Academy and Lake Region to open, then dropped a four-set match to visiting Cape Elizabeth.

Yarmouth hasn't stumbled since.

The Clippers began what is now a program-best 11-match win streak with a 3-0 victory at Cheverus, rallied for a 3-2 triumph at Kennebunk, earned revenge for last year with a 3-1 home win over Machias, beat visiting Washington Academy and Cony by the same score,  then blanked visiting South Portland, host Bucksport, host Sumner, visiting Windham and host Thornton Academy.

Jonesport-Beals hadn't been as fortunate, dropping its first seven matches, then, after a 3-2 win over Sumner, losing three more.

Two years ago, Yarmouth went to Jonesport-Beals and needed five sets to eke out a victory. Last fall, the Clippers went five games again to win Down East.

This time around, Yarmouth was never seriously tested and made quick work of its foe.

The Clippers trailed early in the first game, 1-0, and 3-2, but rattled off 10 points in succession to seize control. The run featured four aces from senior libero Maddy Maierhofer and a kill from senior Grace Mallett.

A pair of kills from senior Hannah Elrick helped set up the closing push and Mallett closed out the set with four straight aces for a 25-7 win.

"Grace leads our team in aces and service points," Senecal said. "She's one of the stronger servers around."

Maierhofer and Mallett both had four of Yarmouth's nice aces that game.

"We have a really strong serving team this year," said Mallett. "That's one of the strongest aspects of the team. We usually dedicate time in practice to straight serving and it's paid off. Our percentage is up a lot from last year. Everyone's been getting them in."

A kill from sophomore Makenzie Sheehan and an ace from Mallett got the second set off to a good start. Three kills from Sheehan and an ace from Elrick pushed the lead to 8-1. Jonesport-Beals crept back to 8-4, but a service fault gave the ball back to Yarmouth, which got six straight aces from Sheehan to make it 15-4. Kills from senior Madeline Anderson, sophomore Morgan Hamre and junior Emily Parker opened it up even further. Hamre and Elrick added kills and a pair of aces from Maierhofer closed it out, 25-7.

"Maddy is amazing," said Senecal. "Every pass is perfect. She covers every inch of that back row like nothing I've ever seen. She's a phenomenal libero."

Senecal shuffled some players around for the third game, but it only ultimately meant that Yarmouth allowed two additional points.

Sheehan's kill gave the hosts a lead they'd never relinquish. Three straight Anderson aces opened it up. With the score, 6-3, the Clippers ran off eight points in a row, highlighted by two kills from senior Abigail Latham, one each from Hamre and Sheehan and another Maierhofer ace. The result was academic from there and an ace from Hamre, a Latham kill and finally a Mallett kill brought the curtain down on a 25-9 third set victory, giving Yarmouth a 3-0 match win.

"Sometimes you struggle to play, but today we worked really hard," Mallett said. "We have to remember to stay aggressive. When we run our plays, which is something we try to do a lot, we really shine."

"You really want to get the kids to play a consistent game and work on things and not worry so much about the score, just focus on what we work on constantly in practice," said Senecal. "If we do that, you get something out of it. You can get lazy and still win, but that's not ever what we want to do. We got stuff out of today. We stayed aggressive, but had kids play different positions."

Sheehan stuffed the stat sheet with seven kills and six aces. Maierhofer served seven aces, while Mallett had six aces and three kills. Also contributing were Hamre (three aces, three kills), Latham (four kills), Anderson (three aces), Elrick (three kills, two aces) and high-flying senior Kristina Borderia (three kills).

Once again, it was a brilliant display of depth and talent.

"Makenzie swung for us last year," said Mallett. "Her serve is great and she's been hitting really well. Morgan is doing really well in the middle. Emily Parker has switched to the outside, but she does well. They're all flexible. We have depth."

"We have senior strength, which is really nice," Maierhofer said. "It brings unity to our team, which I really love. We have a lot of strong underclassmen players as well. We just kind of jell as a team and we love each other."

"Hannah Elrick is small in stature, but as an outside hitter, she gets as high over the net as bigger kids and hits it solid in the court every time," added Senecal. "Kristina possesses so much power. Her overall game's improved a lot. She covers the court a lot better than before. Madeline Anderson all of a sudden in the offseason developed a strong attack game. We hit strongly from all over the court. We can move the ball around the net."

Dreams of gold

Yarmouth's 13-1 record is dazzling, but likely won't be enough to finish ahead of Washington Academy for the No. 1 seed in Class B.

"We'd like to strengthen our regular season schedule," Senecal said. "Even if we're not at their level, we always want to play Greely and Falmouth. We need to play those teams. It helps us in the long run. Being a powerful team in Class B, they'll be contacting us for scrimmages. That will be fun for us."

There's an outside chance the Clippers could meet crosstown rival NYA in the quarterfinals next weekend, although Narrguagus is the more likely foe. If Yarmouth makes it to the semis, Machias (or possibly NYA) could be waiting.

The Class B state final is Saturday, Nov. 2 at St. Joseph's College in Standish.

The Clippers plan to be there.

"It's really exciting," Mallett said. "It's been a really great season so far. We're looking forward to playoffs. I think we're similar to two years ago. We're really close-knit and that's reflected in our games."

"Honestly, I have 100 percent faith we can do it," Maierhofer said. "We've worked hard and it's paid off. We have a good chance."

"In all honesty, we feel like even though we're the 2 seed, we're the favorite," Senecal added. "It's a tough place to be. It's not comfortable. It wasn't last year. I don't think these kids will be complacent. We're ahead of where we've been in the past. We just hope it gets us where we need to go. It's a new season now. We're 0-0."

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

Photo: Michael Strout

Yarmouth senior Grace Mallett prepares to serve one of her six aces during Saturday's match.

Photo: Michael Strout

Yarmouth senior libero Maddy Maierhofer controlled the back row all afternoon.

Photo: Michael Strout

Yarmouth senior Kristina Borderia rises for a kill.

Photo: Michael Strout

Yarmouth sophomore Makenzie Sheehan plays the ball above the net.

Photo: Michael Strout

Yarmouth senior Madeline Anderson sets the ball.

Photo: Michael Strout

Yarmouth junior Emily Parker goes up for a shot.

Photo: Michael Strout

Yarmouth senior Hannah Elrick handles a Jonesport-Beals shot.