Scarborough holds off Falmouth in five set thriller to earn top seed
SCARBOROUGH—Postseason level excitement came early to the Scarborough High School gymnasium Monday evening.
That's because arguably the state's two best teams did battle in a regular season finale that had much riding on it.
The Red Storm was seeking a first-ever undefeated record and top seed, while visiting Falmouth hoped to avenge its only loss and perhaps claw its way to the top spot.
Not surprisingly, this one took a long time to decide.
The Yachtsmen got the jump with a 25-21 victory in the first set, but Scarborough bounced back to win the second (25-21) and the third (25-18). Falmouth then did what the Red Storm did to it on its home court earlier this month, rising off the deck and forcing the match to the limit when the Yachtsmen prevailed in game four, 25-15.
When Falmouth went up early in the fifth set, it looked like sweet revenge might await, but Scarborough, behind the strong serving of senior Lauren Piper and the all-over-the-court dominance of classmates Mary Cleary and Abby Mills, wasn't to be denied, winning 13 of the final 14 points to take the game, 15-5, and the match, 3-2.
The Red Storm winds up 14-0, will be the No. 1 seed for the Class A playoffs, while the Yachtsmen finished the regular year 12-2 and project to be in the number two spot.
"Going 14-0 was not a goal, but this was the first year we set specific goals," said Scarborough coach Jon Roberts. "We felt strong about our team. We wanted to be in the top four and win all our home games. Tonight was more about taking care of winning all of our home games than about going undefeated. It just happened to work out that we did both tonight. You can't write a better end to the regular season."
Two of the best
In a year with several strong teams in Class A, the Red Storm and Yachtsmen have stood out as perhaps the best.
Falmouth won nine in a row to start the year, blanking host Gorham and visiting Thornton Academy, winning 3-1 over visiting Biddeford and host Cape Elizabeth, blanking host Kennebunk and visiting Cheverus, downing host South Portland in four games, visiting Lake Region in three, then holding on for a 3-2 win over visiting Greely, beating the Rangers for the first time since 2010 in the process. The Yachtsmen then led visiting Scarborough, two sets to one, but let it slip away and fell, 3-2. Falmouth got back in the with a 3-1 victory over visiting Gorham, rallied for a palpitating 3-2 win at Greely, then eked out a 3-2 win at Biddeford Thursday.
Scarborough had no trouble with visiting Thornton Academy or Cony in 3-0 victories, then made a big statement with a first-ever 3-1 home win over Greely. The Red Storm hasn't let down since, defeating visiting Gorham, host Biddeford, visiting Lake Region and host South Portland by 3-0 margins, sweeping the season series with a 3-0 victory at Greely, blanking host Kennebunk, rallying for a five-set win at Falmouth, sweeping three sets at Windham, holding off visiting Biddeford in four games, then winning at Gorham in four sets Thursday.
Entering Monday, the teams had met a dozen times since Falmouth started its varsity program in 2007 (please see sidebar, below). The Red Storm won the first meeting, then the Yachtsmen took the next seven, including a 3-0 victory in the 2010 quarterfinals. Scarborough had won four straight, however, capped by a thrilling, come-from-behind five set win at Falmouth Oct. 8.
This time around, on its Senior Night, the Red Storm did it again, but it had to deny a Yachtsmen rally in the process.
An ace off the opening serve by Falmouth junior Megan Tammaro got the visitors off to a good start, but Scarborough would open a 13-9 lead. The Yachtsmen then rallied and went ahead to stay on a kill from sophomore Julia Treadwell. A kill from senior Kristina Meserve, who excelled all night, made it 18-15 Falmouth and forced Roberts to call timeout, but the visitors pushed the lead to 21-15. A service fault got the Yachtsmen to 24-19 and to the brink of victory, but a Falmouth fault and an ace from Cleary drew the Red Storm back to 24-21. Junior Ally Hickey then ended it with a block and the Yachtsmen had the first game, 25-21.
When Falmouth took a 6-3 lead in the second set, sparked by a Hickey kill and an ace from junior Leigh Bernardy, it appeared primed to take control again, but Scarborough ran off eight straight points, featuring a block from Piper and an ace from senior Erin Quirk, forcing Yachtsmen coach Gary Powers to call timeout. The Red Storm won the next point as well, making it nine in a row for a 12-6 lead and Falmouth never was able to recover. An ace from Piper made it 15-9 and after the visitors drew back within two, 16-14, on a kill from Bernardy, a Cleary kill sparked a 4-0 run to open things up again. Down, 24-17, the Yachtsmen saved four set points, as Bernardy had an ace and Hickey a kill, but on the next point, Falmouth hit the ball into the net and Scarborough held on, 25-21, to even the match one game apiece.
The Red Storm kept the momentum in game three, never trailing.
A kill from Mills got it started. Senior Hallie Odonnell added a block and Scarborough was off and running. A pair of Odonnell aces made the score 8-4 and induced another Falmouth timeout. Kills from senior Amy Gubrud and Cleary then pushed the lead to 10-4. Senior Riley Burfiend helped the Yachtsmen get four straight points, making the score, 10-8, and a kill from Burfeind tied the game, 11-11, but a service fault put Scarborough ahead to stay. Quirk then delivered a pair of aces to restore some breathing room. A Cleary kill and Piper ace pushed the lead to 20-12, setting up another timeout. Falmouth got two points back, but the Red Storm wasn't about to buckle. A kill from Gubrud and a Cleary ace closed out the game, 25-18, and Scarborough was just one set win away from taking the match.
It wouldn't come easily.
After the hosts won the first point of the fourth game, a Burfeind kill tied the score and a Burfeind ace gave the Yachtsmen their first lead since the second set. The Red Storm rallied to tie it at 2-2, 5-5, 6-6 and 7-7, but Burfeind had back-to-back kills and Hickey delivered an ace to make it 10-7 Falmouth. Back came Scarborough to tie the score one final time, 10-10, but a service fault, an ace from Tammaro, a Treadwell block and a Burfeind kill put the Yachtsmen on top for good. The Red Storm pulled to within 14-11, but the next seven points, capped by a Burfeind ace, went to Falmouth. A kill from Meserve ended it, 25-15, and the match came down to a first-team-to-15 fifth set.
Heading into the finale, the hosts didn't panic.
"The message was, 'Just play your game and be aggressive,'" Roberts said. "In the fourth game, we started feeling like we didn't want to lose and we weren't playing to win. That's contagious. I asked if we'd be happy before-hand if we knew we could win one game to 15 and everyone said yes. We just had to go do it. They came together and I let them talk about what they wanted to talk about. This group's been together for a long time."
Senior Natalie Foster gave Scarborough the first point with a kill and the Red Storm added another point to go ahead, 2-0, but a fault sparked a 4-0 Yachtsmen run, which was capped by a Burfeind ace, making it 4-2 in favor of the visitors.
That would prove to be Falmouth's highwater mark.
A kill from Mills turned momentum for good. After pulling even, an ace from Piper put the hosts on top to stay.
"Losing a set doesn't affect us," Piper said. "We knew this was it. It was all or nothing. We knew we had to put everything into it. We wanted it so badly, knowing it was Senior Night."
Odonnell punctuated a long, exciting point with a kill and two more Red Storm points, capped by a Foster block, made it 8-4 and forced Powers to use a timeout.
It didn't help.
Piper hammered home an ace and Scarborough won the next point too, making it eight in a row for a 10-4 advantage. A service fault gave the Yachtsmen their final point, but Falmouth couldn't build on it, hitting the ball into the net and the Red Storm quickly added two more points for a 13-5 lead, forcing Powers to attempt one final timeout to turn the tide.
It didn't work.
A kill from Odonnell put Scarborough on the brink and a Cleary kill ended it, as Scarborough won the fifth game, 15-5, and took the match in five exciting sets.
"One of our main goals was to win all of our home games," Piper said. "I can't even believe we've gone undefeated. A lot of us have grown up together. There's so many seniors. We've played together so well. We've meshed. We trust each other. Falmouth gets us pumped. They push us."
"I left the girls alone in the fifth game and let them play," Roberts said. "I got after them a bit in the fourth game and they're not used to that. They had to play confident and aggressive. It helps that it's our gym. It meant a lot for the seniors. I didn't play anyone but seniors. It was a different rotation than we normally play. It was just great that those girls stepped up. I was so proud that they went after it. They weren't soft. They were aggressive serving and took it to the other team. Falmouth's good. I don't want to say it was lucky, but they could beat us at anytime."
For the time being, the Red Storm is the Perfect Storm.
"Four years ago, I showed up and went to the middle school and asked who wanted to play volleyball and they looked at me like I was crazy," Roberts said. "This senior class is the best team I've had. I may have had stronger players at times, but this is the best 1 to 7, 1 to 8 team where everybody contributes. I'm happy they came together. It's just experience. These are kids who sat on the bench and wanted to get in and play."
Individually, Piper was at her best when it mattered most, producing seven service points in the fifth game. She had six aces and 18 assists in total.
"I don't look at the score actually," Piper said. "Especially when I go up to serve, so it won't affect me at all."
"I thought Lauren served really well today," Roberts said. "She moved the ball around and didn't hit it too hard."
Cleary stuffed the stat sheet with 16 digs, 11 kills, four blocks and five aces. Mills finished with nine digs, seven kills and a pair of aces.
"I thought Abby played great and Mary played good, but Mary's drawing the double block all the time," Roberts said. "She's freezing the blockers. Falmouth has the best block in the state and great hitters. Last year, Abby was falling off the bench trying to get in. She's so competitive."
Odonnell had three blocks, two kills and two aces, Gubrud added three kills, Quirk five aces and Foster three kills and a pair of blocks.
Falmouth was led by Burfeind's 10 kills and five aces. Meserve finished with nine kills, five blocks and an ace. Bernardy added three kills, three blocks and two aces, Hickey had five kills and two aces and Treadwell wound up with four blocks and four kills.
"Momentum in volleyball changes on a dime and you can't do anything about it," Powers said. "Scarborough's very consistent. We were up and down. The first game was ours and the fourth game was ours, but the middle two we just fell apart. That's something we need to work on in practice. We get behind and we start hesitating on everything. The second, third and fifth games we just made too many errors. I thought we had momentum, but we had a few bad passes and we got rattled."
Wide open field
Falmouth will likely host Biddeford or Kennebunk in the Class A state quarterfinals Saturday at a time to be announced. The Tigers made it to the state match last fall, but the Yachtsmen beat them twice this season, 3-1 and 3-2. They also downed the Rams, 3-0.
Falmouth made it to the state match in both 2009 and 2010 and is still hoping to take that final step and win it all. This could be the season the Yachtsmen reach the pinnacle.
"Our two losses were both in five games, which was a big change from last year," Powers said. "It's very wide open. It's the strongest the tournament has ever been. A lot of good teams. It's seven, eight teams deep. We'll play our best and see what happens. We know what to do. We're strong and have height. It's just the mental aspect. We have a week to work on it."
Scarborough will likely host Cony or Cheverus in its quarterfinal this weekend. The Red Storm blanked the Rams in the regular season and didn't face the Stags.
Like Falmouth, Scarborough has been in a state final before, but is still seeking some championship hardware and believes its time is now.
"We have to keep doing what we're doing and keep getting better because everyone else is getting better," Piper said. "We can't relax and stay the same. We have the skills. We have to keep talking. It's awesome to have homecourt advantage. It helps to have your own fans."
"In the last week, every team has been pushed by other teams," Roberts said. "There's a solid six or seven teams who could end up in the finals. From here on out, it will be tough matches. Hopefully, we can continue to be mentally strong because the mentally strong teams will be successful. We like playing here, but I'm partial to traveling on the bus for camaraderie. We'll have fans here. If we lose, hopefully we lose by playing our game and by being aggressive. I won't be disappointed if another team beats us if we play well. I will be disappointed if we don't play well."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Previous Scarborough-Falmouth results
Scarborough 3 @ Falmouth 2
Scarborough 3 @ Falmouth 2
Scarborough 3 @ Falmouth 1
@ Scarborough 3 Falmouth 2
Falmouth 3 @ Scarborough 0
@ Falmouth 3 Scarborough 1
Class A quarterfinals
@ Falmouth 3 Scarborough 0
Falmouth 3 @ Scarborough 1
@ Falmouth 3 Scarborough 0
Falmouth 3 Scarborough 0
@ Falmouth 3 Scarborough 0
@ Scarborough 3 Falmouth 0