Falmouth volleyball sweeps Biddeford to advance
FALMOUTH—Despite posting a glowing 12-2 record in the regular season, the Falmouth volleyball team was guilty of occasionally losing focus and stretching matches longer than necessary.
Saturday afternoon in the Class A quarterfinals, however, the Yachtsmen had a chance to deliver a quick knockout against dangerous Biddeford and this time, capitalized, serving notice that they are very much a contender to win a state title next weekend.
Second-ranked Falmouth rallied to win the first game, 25-21, thanks in large part to eight straight service points from sophomore Julia Treadwell. The seventh-seeded Tigers then went up, 10-3, in the second set, but the Yachtsmen roared back behind its superb play at the net and prevailed, 25-19. When Biddeford went ahead, 3-0, in the third game, it looked like Falmouth might be slipping, but not on this day. The Yachtsmen trailed most of the way, but took the lead on a Tigers' service fault, then closed the match with a 25-22 decision.
Falmouth improved to 13-2, ended Biddeford's season at 8-8 and advanced to host No. 6 Cape Elizabeth (13-2) in a compelling semifinal showdown Wednesday at a time to be announced.
"We had a great practice yesterday," said Yachtsmen senior Riley Burfeind, who had 16 kills. "We talked about the scenarios that could happen. We didn't want to go to five games today. We all just realized that volleyball is 90 percent mental and we couldn't get down."
That elusive championship
Since 2009, Falmouth has been as competitive as any program in the state, but hasn't been able to take that final step and win a first championship, despite playing in the state match in 2009 (a three-set loss to Greely) and 2010 (a three-set loss to Biddeford).
Last fall, the Yachtsmen were ousted by Greely in a close quarterfinal, but this season, Falmouth, other than dropping two agonizing 3-2 decisions to Scarborough, was unstoppable and as a result, earned the No. 2 seed in Class A.
Biddeford, which got to the state match a year ago only to lose to Greely, went 7-7 in the regular season, losing to the elite programs (Falmouth, Greely and Scarborough) twice each. Thursday, the Tigers held off Cheverus, 3-0, in the preliminary round to set up the fifth playoff meeting in six years against Falmouth (Biddeford also won the 2008 semifinals, 3-1, and the Yachtsmen prevailed, 3-0, in the 2009 semis and 3-1, two years ago in the quarterfinals).
In the regular season, Falmouth won, 3-1 at home and 3-2 at Biddeford.
This time, the Yachtsmen took care of business and advanced.
Falmouth shot to leads of 5-1 and 8-3 in the first set, but Biddeford, behind strong net play from freshman Kendra Cote, pulled even at 11-11 and 12-12, before taking a 16-13 lead.
It was short-lived.
A kill from junior Leigh Bernardy got the hosts within two and brought Treadwell to the service line.
Treadwell then almost single-handedly put the game in Falmouth's column.
A pair of aces set the tone and tied the score. After another Yachtsmen point, Treadwell delivered another ace to make it 18-16 and compel Tigers coach Mike Maldenado to call timeout.
It didn't help.
A block from junior Ally Hickey, two more points and a final Treadwell ace pushed the lead to 22-16.
"Julia had some amazing serves," Burfeind said.
A Burfeind kill made it 24-17 and put the Yachtsmen on the brink, but Biddeford made things interesting, getting a pair of kills from senior Bailey Cote and pulled within 24-21, but a kill from Hickey ended it and Falmouth had a 25-21 victory.
A kill from senior Katrina Meserve gave the Yachtsmen an early 2-1 lead in the second set, but the Tigers got eight of the next nine points, as Kendra Cote and sophomore Jocelyn Moody dominated in the air. Down, 9-2, Falmouth coach Gary Powers called timeout and as all coaches hope, his charges responded.
Trailing, 10-4, Bernardy had a block and after another point, a Bernardy ace made it 10-6. the Tigers got a point back on a kill from senior Dalani Roy, but a Burfeind kill made it 11-8 and forced Maldenado to call timeout. Four more points, highlighted by two Meserve aces and a Hickey kill, put the Yachtsmen ahead, 12-11.
"I just told them to refocus (in our timeout)," said Powers. "We needed a timeout to do that. When we get our heads in the game, we play well. We've worked on that all week."
Biddeford tied it, but a Burfeind kill put the hosts ahead to stay. Consecutive Burfeind kills then made it 16-13. After a Falmouth service fault, the Tigers returned the favor, Burfeind delivered back-to-back aces and a block from Meserve made it 20-14. The visitors would get as close as four, 23-19, but a Hickey kill and a Bernardy ace brought the curtain down on the momentum-swinging 25-19 triumph.
"The close games are very intense, but we buckled down and had the confidence to play through them," said junior setter Megan Tammaro.
On the ropes, Biddeford didn't quit in game three, as a block from Kendra Cote and an ace from Bailey Cote produced a quick 3-0 lead. Back roared Falmouth, as Burfeind and Bernardy had kills to tie the score. The Tigers went back on top, 5-3, but the Yachtsmen got the next two points. Biddeford went ahead, 6-5, but Meserve tied it with a kill. The Tigers retook the lead, 7-6, but Bernardy responded with a kill. The visitors got the next two points, but a Meserve kill, a Burfeind kill and another point gave Falmouth its first lead of the game, 10-9.
Meserve added an ace, but Biddeford scored four straight, capped by a Bailey Cote ace, to go ahead, 13-11. A service fault, a Treadwell block, two Burfeind aces and another Treadwell block made it 16-13 Yachtsmen.
Back came the Tigers again and they went ahead, 18-17, on a kill from Roy, but after a highlight reel dig from Hickey, Falmouth tied the score. The game was tied at 19-19, 20-20, 21-21 and 22-22, before a Biddeford service fault turned the tide for good. Meserve followed with an ace to put the Yachtsmen on the brink and the match ended when the Tigers hit the ball out, giving Falmouth the 25-22 victory and a 3-0 match win.
"It wasn't easy," Tammaro said. "We tried to work together as a team. They took us to five games last time, but today it worked out for us."
"We got pumped up and realized we wanted it so badly," said Burfeind. "We knew we could do it. We didn't want to go to a fourth game."
"It's exciting for us," Powers added. "(Winning this round was) one of our goals. We want to make it to the final. (Biddeford has) a lower ceiling and it's hard to read the ball there, but we didn't let up this time."
Burfeind stuffed the stat sheet with 16 kills, two aces and a block. Many of those kills came courtesy Tammaro, whose setting was tremendous.
"It's really different than what I've done," said Tammaro. "I have to have court sense. I'm new to it and I'm trying. My teammates are helping."
"Megan did a great job," Burfeind said. "We wouldn't have had the plays we had without her setting. She kept it together and did what she can do. She did all the work, we just hit it down."
"Megan, for her first year setting, knows how to run the court and knows where everyone wants the ball," Powers added. "We wouldn't be where we are without her."
Meserve had seven kills, four aces and a pair of blocks, Bernardy added five kills, four blocks and a pair of aces, Treadwell had four aces and four blocks and Hickey added three kills and several digs.
"Riley was terrific," Powers said. "Leigh had an awesome game from the opposite end and Katrina did an awesome job hitting, which helped set up Riley."
Biddeford was paced by 11 kills and seven blocks from Kendra Cote. Moody had six kills.
Falmouth is now one step from the state final and figures to be tested by Cape Elizabeth. The Yachtsmen won a hard-fought 3-1 (22-25, 25-21, 27-25, 25-20) decision at Cape Elizabeth in the regular season. The teams have no playoff history.
"It's great being at home," Burfeind said. "It's great having the fans here. It's a big advantage. We're excited to see Cape again. It was a great match last time."
"We know we have the talent," said Tammaro. "Working as a team helps. We really want it this year. It's great to play here again. The school's really starting to take notice. Hopefully we'll have a good turnout."
Falmouth hopes to pass that test, then win it all for the first time Saturday at Windham High School against either two-time defending champion Greely or undefeated Scarborough.
"We want this so badly," Burfeind said. "We're working so hard. We hope this is our year."
"We're ready for the next step," Powers said. "I hope we keep clicking."