FALMOUTH—Something just seems to happen when the Scarborough and Falmouth volleyball teams get together in the regular season.
And in the case of Thursday’s encounter, something epic.
In a rematch of last year’s Class A state final match, the defending champion Yachtsmen looked for much of the night as if they were en route to victory, never trailing in a first set victory and after dropping the second, riding an overwhelming 22-3 surge in one stretch to take the third, 25-13.
When Falmouth erased a seven-point deficit and took a 22-21 lead in the fourth set, the match was on the verge of being over, but the Red Storm got a spark from their one returning veteran, senior Kayla Savage, whose diving save kept a point alive and sparked a rally which won the set, 25-23.
That set up a winner-take-all fifth game where again the Yachtsmen seemingly had it wrapped up, leading, 14-11, and needing just one more point, but it never came.
Some how, some way, Scarborough again saved its best for last, winning the final five points to steal the set, 16-14, and winning the match in five palpitating games.
The new-look Red Storm improved to 3-0, dropped Falmouth to 2-1 and served notice that once again they will be one of the last teams standing.
“It really shows our team has come together,” Savage said. “Everyone did their part. It’s a great win. We got motivated. We never gave up. We fought to the end.”
Falmouth and Scarborough separated themselves from the competition a year ago long before they squared off at Windham High School in the state final match.
In the first meeting, the visiting Red Storm rallied from a 2-1 deficit to win at the Yachtsmen, 3-2. Scarborough prevailed by the same score at home in the regular season finale to lock up the top seed, relegating Falmouth to second.
Then, after form held, they met a third time and this time, it was the Yachtsmen who were charmed and after a series of close calls, finally scaled the mountaintop by virtue of a palpitating 3-1 victory.
The Red Storm only returned one player (Savage) with experience, but started with 3-0 wins over visiting Gorham and at Cheverus.
Falmouth did lose standouts Riley Burfeind and Katrina Meserve, but returned a ton and appear to still be the gold standard. The Yachtsmen blanked visiting Kennebunk and host Lake Region by 3-0 margins to start the year.
Entering Thursday, the teams had met 14 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 took the next five before Falmouth’s win on the big stage last November gave it an 8-6 all-time edge.
Thursday, the Yachtsmen controlled stretches of the match, but the Red Storm had the last laugh.
Falmouth never trailed in the first set, breaking an early 1-1 tie behind three straight kills from senior Ally Hickey, each set up by picture perfect assists from senior Megan Tammaro.
Scarborough coach Jon Roberts called timeout and the Red Storm hung tough, but could never catch up.
Consecutive aces from senior Sophie Emple opened the lead up to 9-4. After Scarborough pulled within 10-7, junior Lydia Farmer had a kill and junior Julia Treadwell produced an ace. After the Red Storm cut the deficit to 15-12, a Hickey kill opened it back up. Scarborough got within two, 18-16, but senior Leigh Bernardy had a kill and after a Bernardy dig kept the point alive, the Yachtsmen won another point. Bernardy added an ace and while the Red Storm crawled back to 24-20, Tammaro set up Farmer for a kill and Falmouth wrapped up the first set.
In that first game, Tammaro had eight assists and Farmer had four kills.
“Megan played the best we’ve seen her play,” said Falmouth coach Gary Powers.
Scarborough took its first lead of the match when it won the first two points of the second set. An ace from senior Lindsey Thurston made it 7-2 Red Storm, causing Powers to call timeout.
A kill from senior Mina Puig gave Scarborough a 12-6 advantage, but the Yachtsmen crept back.
A kill by Farmer started the rally. Treadwell then put on a serving clinic, winning seven straight points, the last of which coming on a block by Hickey, to put the hosts on top, 14-12.
The game would be tied at 14-14, 16-16 and 18-18, but an ace from Red Storm senior Megan Brooks put the visitors ahead for good. Savage produced back to back kills to make it 21-18. After Falmouth cut the lead to 21-20, Scarborough won successive points and it went on to win the set, 25-22.
That looked to be a momentary hiccup as the Yachtsmen dominated the third set.
After the Red Storm took a quick 5-2 lead, capped by an ace from Thurston, Falmouth erupted, winning 12 points in a row.
With Emple serving, a kill from Treadwell tied the score, a Treadwell block produced another point and kills from Treadwell, Bernardy, Treadwell again and Tammaro (being the beneficiary of a nice set for a change, from Emple) made it 14-5.
Scarborough got successive points, but kills from Farmer and Hickey and a Bernardy ace sparked a 4-0 run which made it 18-7. After the Red Storm got a point back, kills from Hickey and Farmer made it 22-8. Scarborough did make things interesting late in the game, pulling within 24-13, but Tammaro set up Farmer for a kill and Falmouth closed out the set and took a step closer to winning the match.
But the Yachtsmen never took that step.
The Red Storm, facing a more experienced foe, as well as adversity for the first time this fall, rose off the deck in the fourth set.
A block by senior Krissy Maloney and a Savage kill gave the visitors an early lead, but a Tammaro ace capped a run which put Falmouth on top, 4-2. Scarborough went on an 8-1 run, capped by a Savage ace, to lead, 13-7 and eventually stretched its lead to 17-10, but Falmouth rallied.
Successive kills from Bernardy and Treadwell allowed the Yachtsmen to catch up and tie the game, 20-20. A Bernardy kill then gave Falmouth a 21-20 lead. After the Red Storm tied things up, an Emple kill made it 22-21 Yachtsmen and put them three points from closing out the match.
Savage refused to let it happen.
She made an athletic dig on the ensuing serve and Scarborough went on to win the point. Puig then delivered a kill to make it 23-22 Red Storm. A Hickey block led to an Emple kill, tying the game, 23-23, but a service fault put Scarborough on the brink and on the next point, Falmouth hit the ball out of bounds, sending the match to a winner-take-all fifth set.
Teams generally play to 15 in the fifth set, but you have to win by two and on this night, even an extra point would be necessary in the decisive game.
A kill from Treadwell gave the hosts the jump, but Maloney had a timely block to tie it.
After a service fault gave Falmouth a 2-1 lead, Farmer delivered an ace, but Savage had back-to-back kills and Thurston added another for a 4-3 Red Storm advantage.
After the teams were tied at 5-5 and 6-6, kills from senior Emma Tirrell, who nearly matched Tammaro’s setting excellence on the night, and Puig made it 8-6 Scarborough. After the Yachtsmen got a point back on a service fault, Tammaro made a ridiculously athletic play, somehow keeping the ball alive after it careened off one of the backboards folded up near the ceiling, but Maloney ended the point with a kill to make it 9-7.
A Tammaro kill and another point pulled Falmouth even, but Savage gave Scarborough the lead back with a kill. Farmer tied it, 10-10, with a kill, but the Red Storm got the next point.
Then, the Yachtsmen took the Red Storm to the brink once more.
Hickey tied the score with a kill and after Falmouth got the next point, a block from Treadwell and a Treadwell kill made it 14-11.
One point away.
A net violation gave Scarborough life and a Savage kill pulled Scarborough within one. The Yachtsmen then hit the ball into the net and just like that, the score was tied, 14-14, meaning someone had to win by two points.
Falmouth hit the ball out and suddenly, the Red Storm were one point away.
And they would finish it off.
With Savage serving, there was no need to prolong matters and she blistered an ace, winning the game, 16-14, and the match, 3-2.
“I just wanted to get it in and trust my teammates to make a play,” Savage said. “My shoe was untied and I tripped. I didn’t think the serve was going in and so I thought, ‘Oh no,’ but it worked out. It was great to end it with an ace. It’s very exciting.”
“It was a great match,” Roberts said. “It was fitting that (Kayla) served it out. It’s cool to see a match go five (sets) this early in the season. This was a mental check. Kids were crying after the first game, not feeling good about themselves. It’s great we could come back and win. I love this team. They’re working really hard. There are no superstars, just everybody working together.
“We knew it would be a good match. Obviously (Falmouth is) a great team. We’re working hard to be a great team, but they’re already there. I think the difference in the games we lost was we got trounced. We made mental mistakes and they were steady. We’re a young team. That will happen. It’s a good barrier to get over.”
Statistically, the Red Storm were led by 12 kills from Savage and a dozen assists from Tirrell. Junior Taylor Marinko had eight blocks. Sophomore Caroline Goodwin had seven assists and Thurston finished with five kills.
Falmouth got a whopping 28 assists from Tammaro, 13 kills from Farmer, nine kills each from Bernardy and Treadwell and eight from Hickey, who also had a dozen blocks, but ultimately, it wasn’t enough.
“Scarborough’s a tough team,” said Powers. “A lot of people are taking them lightly. We’re still finding our rhythm. I thought it was over and we had it won, but we got tense and made mistakes. It’s something we’ll work on.”
There appear to be very few easy matches on the slate this fall and both teams will be tested before squaring off again in the finale Oct. 16 in Scarborough.
The Yachtsmen are back in action Tuesday at Cheverus. Thursday of next week they host improved South Portland. Then the lifting gets heavy again with a trip to rival Greely and a home match against Cape Elizabeth, which serves as a rematch of last year’s thrilling semifinal.
Falmouth figures to rebound nicely.
“I don’t mind losing,” Powers said. “You hate to go through the season undefeated. Now we know our weaknesses and what we need to do.”
The Red Storm take a trip Down East Saturday, playing at Ellsworth and Mt. Desert Island. They return home Tuesday to face Windham, then will be tested Thursday at Cape Elizabeth.
They’ll certainly build off Tuesday’s dramatic triumph.
“We’re hoping for a great season,” Savage said. “It’s early, but I can’t wait to see what happens the rest of the way.”
“(This match is) very encouraging,” Roberts said. “I think we’re way ahead of where we thought we’d be.”
Falmouth senior Leigh Bernardy goes all out to return a shot.
Falmouth senior Sophie Emple sets the ball.
Scarborough junior Emily Hanson prepares to serve.
Falmouth senior Ally Hickey loomed large at the net all night.
Scarborough junior Taylor Marinko blocks a shot by Falmouth junior Lydia Farmer.
Scarborough senior Mina Puig looks for a kill as Falmouth seniors Ally Hickey (35) and Megan Tammaro contest.
Scarborough senior Kayla Savage keeps her eye on the ball. Savage, the Red Storm’s lone returning experienced player, willed her team to victory late in the match.
Falmouth senior Megan Tammaro put on a passing clinic Thursday, finishing with 28 assists.
Scarborough senior Emma Tirrell sets the ball. Tirrell had a dozen assists in the win.
Falmouth junior Julia Treadwell soars above the net.
Falmouth celebrates winning a point. The Yachtsmen were two points from victory in the fourth set and had three match points in the fifth game, but ultimately fell short.
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
Scarborough junior Taylor Marinko (26) and senior Emma Tirrell exult after winning a key point during Thursday’s scintillating 3-2 come-from-behind win at Falmouth in a rematch of last year’s Class A state final.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.