Changing of the guard? Falmouth beats Greely in volleyball showdown
FALMOUTH —The Greely volleyball team is invincible no more and it appears that the team next door could be the heir to the throne.
Monday evening at Falmouth High, in arguably the most anticipated high school volleyball match in state history, the host Yachtsmen continued their dream season, staying unbeaten with an impressive 25-18, 13-25, 25-15, 25-18 victory over the Rangers.
The loss was just Greely's second since the beginning of its title reign in 2003 and was only the program's fourth ever. It was also the first time that the Rangers ever lost a match in fewer than five games.
"We're thrilled to say the least," said Falmouth senior outside hitter Carolyn Smyth. "We're the first team to beat them in four games. It's a big thing for any school. We said before the match and during the match to keep smiling. They had the pressure on them. We were here to have fun."
"This lets everyone know we've arrived and we can
play at this level from now on," added Falmouth coach Gary Powers.
Greely entered the match with a staggering pedigree. The Rangers lost two five-game matches in their first varsity season of 2002, including in the state match to Woodland. Greely didn't fall again until Sept. 6, 2007, winning a state-record 66 matches in a row. The Rangers have captured the state title in every season since 2003 and were considered the favorite again this fall. Greely had to go to five games to beat Biddeford in its opener, then blanked Gorham, Kennebunk, NYA and Cony, defeated Scarborough and Biddeford in four games, then won 3-0 over Yarmouth and Cape Elizabeth and Gorham to improve to a mind-boggling 123-3 all-time.
Falmouth, meanwhile, is still in its veritable infancy. The Yachtsmen didn't even field a varsity team until 2007. After going 6-9 and losing in the quarterfinals to Gorham that season, Falmouth went 12-4 a year ago and reached the semifinals before being ousted by Biddeford. This season, the Yachtsmen opened with a 3-1 win at Scarborough and took off from there, beating Gorham, Cony, Biddeford, Yarmouth, NYA, Biddeford and Cape Elizabeth in three games and Mt. Desert Island in four.
The rivals met in a non-countable match a couple weekends ago at the Maine Games with Falmouth emerging victorious in five games, but Monday night's contest had much higher stakes.
Both teams brought plenty of fans and accommodations were made for extra seating. The Yachtsmen then came out hot from the get-go.
In the first game, Greely got the first point and the teams were tied at 3-3 before the hosts won four in a row, thanks in large part to three aces from senior Alyssa Yeung. Leading 7-5, Falmouth ripped off six in a row, as Smyth made her presence felt with a pair of kills. The Rangers got back to 13-8, but Smyth served five straight points and the Yachtsmen opened it up to 19-8. Greely would get as close as 24-18 down the stretch, but a kill from junior Kate Sparks gave Falmouth a 25-18 victory.
The visitors dominated in the second game, scoring the first two points and never looking back. A kill from senior standout Michaela Campbell forced Powers to call timeout down 9-3, but Falmouth wasn't able to answer, scoring consecutive points only twice as Greely closed out its 25-13 game on a Yachtsmen errant hit.
The Rangers appeared to have momentum, but Falmouth, which played so relaxed all evening, promptly reasserted control in the third game. Tied at 3-3, a Sparks kill gave the Yachtsmen their first lead since the first game. Yeung followed with an ace and the hosts were on their way. Smyth, Sparks, Yeung and junior Alana Becker all had key kills and Falmouth went on to win, 25-15, as Smyth punctuated the game with an ace.
Game four would be the closest of all. There would be seven ties and no team led by more than three points until the Yachtsmen expanded their narrow 17-16 edge with four straight points, punctuated by a kill from senior Emma Wilberg. The Rangers got a point back, but Falmouth got the next three as a Wilberg kill and a Smyth ace put the hosts on the verge of victory. Greely saved one match point, but Smyth brought the curtain down on the 94-minute match with a kill and the Yachtsmen celebrated their victory with their fans who stormed the court.
"I was not expecting (the fan reaction)," Smyth said. "It was fun. We had nerves going into it, but we got them out of our system. We kept going. We had more energy."
"We've come a long way in a short time and to do this against a program like Greely, is phenomenal," added Powers. "There was a lot of excitement in here. We haven't
done anything different than we have all season. We just went up
against the best and saw where we stood. Even if it
went five games and we'd lost, we played well. Both teams played well. It was
just a great night of volleyball. We have smart players
who picked their spots."
Smyth had 10 kills and four aces. Wilberg finished with 28 assists. Sparks had seven kills and Yeung added five blocks and 10 kills.
Greely was stunned, but remains confident.
"That's how volleyball is, some nights you have it, some
nights you don't," said Rangers coach Kelvin Hasch. "I think some of the kids were awed with the setting. It's a great place to play volleyball. It's noisy. A great venue.
just didn't have a passing game. When we haven't got passing, we don't
have a great offense. Falmouth was passing all night. They were
trusting their partners and getting them the ball. I thought every time we got close, our passing game wasn't there. We
couldn't do it. A couple points here and there would have made a big
Campbell and senior Erin Cadigan both had 10 kills for the Rangers. Senior Karlee Biskup finished with 33 set assists.
"I told the kids all that matters is who wins the last game," said Hasch. "We're not to go
hang our heads. We never talk about win streaks or anything like that. Everyone was
hyped up to come play. We couldn't find the right combination. I think in a way it will make us more focused. I think it's great for
volleyball. I would have liked to see it go five games."
The Rangers fell to 10-1 (they're second in the Class A Heal Points standings). Greely plays host to Scarborough Thursday and hosts Cape Elizabeth and Falmouth to close out the regular season next week. The second Yachtsmen-Rangers showdown is Friday, Oct. 16.
"We'll be ready the
next time we see them," Hasch said.
The Yachtsmen improved to 10-0 and have the top spot all to themselves in the Class A Heals. Falmouth hosted Kennebunk Tuesday, welcomes Gorham Thursday, then closes the regular season next week with a home match versus Scarborough and a trip to Greely.
"It's a given (Greely) will be gunning for us next time," Powers said. "We've given them
motivation to work."
"It just makes us want to work even harder than we have," Smyth added. "This just shows us that we can do it if we work hard."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org