Scarborough’s volleyball team celebrates its first state championship Saturday afternoon.
Chris Lambert photos.
Scarborough senior captains Emily Hanson (left) and Taylor Marinko show off the Red Storm’s prize.
More photos below.
SOUTH PORTLAND—They lost five matches, including their regular season finale.
They got pushed to five sets in the preliminary round and were considered at best, the fourth most likely team to win it all.
Well guess what?
Saturday afternoon at South Portland High School, Scarborough’s volleyball team proved everyone wrong, capping a stirring playoff run with yet another upset win over a higher seed, making program history in the process.
The fifth-ranked Red Storm went up against the state’s gold standard, nine-time champion Greely, the No. 2 seed, and the first set went according to script, as the Rangers trailed only once, 1-0, then took control and went on to a 25-20 victory behind their three stars, bruising senior hitter Alex Tebbs, senior setter extraordinaire Hannah Butland and do-everything junior standout Kayley Cimino.
Greely took a 23-22 lead in the second set and had the Rangers gone on to win that game, the match might have ended quickly, but Scarborough settled down, took the lead on an ace from senior captain Taylor Marinko, then evened the match with 25-23 victory when Greely couldn’t return a shot.
In the pivotal third set, the Red Storm got six service points from sophomore Kacey Foerster, five more from senior captain Emily Hanson and four kills from Marinko as they built a 20-13 lead before fending off a late Rangers’ charge en route to a 25-20 triumph, which was clinched by an ace from unheralded junior Libby Chadbourne, who played a tremendous match.
Greely had rallied from two sets down in its semifinal, but this time, the Rangers had no answer and Scarborough trailed only once in the fourth set, 11-10. Three successive Chadbourne aces put the Red Storm ahead to stay and while Greely got close late, it never could catch up and after breathtaking saves from senior Chloe Gorey and Foerster allowed Scarborough to get the ball over the net, the Rangers couldn’t return it and the Red Storm had a 25-22 fourth set victory and for the first time in program history, could call themselves state champions by virtue of the 3-1 decision.
Scarborough capped its season with a memorable four-match postseason run, finished 13-5, ended Greely’s excellent season at 13-4 and finally, after several close calls, climbed to the sport’s pinnacle.
“I don’t even have words to explain it,” said Hanson, who time and again went to the floor to prevent Cimino blasts from ending up in points. “We’ve worked so hard all summer and this whole season. We gave blood, sweat and tears, everything. We had ups and downs. We had a slump midseason. We picked it up and found the chemistry. To win with this team is so much different than winning with any other team because this is my second family and it’s truly amazing. It’s sensationally indescribable.”
Greely became a varsity program in 2002 and has been the gold standard almost the length of its existence.
The Rangers lost a five-set heartbreaker to Woodland in the 2002 state match, then won the next seven titles. After falling short in 2010, Greely got back to the pinnacle in 2011 and 2012. After losing in the semifinals each of the past two years, the Rangers had their eye on the championship prize this fall (see sidebar, below, for links to previous games) and despite three losses, Greely entered the playoffs as the No. 2 seed.
After handling No. 7 MDI with three-set ease in the quarterfinals, the Rangers fell behind two sets to none to No. 3 Falmouth in Wednesday’s semifinals, then rallied for a memorable 3-2 victory to advance.
Scarborough, which became a varsity program in 2004 and quickly became a serious contender, had played in two prior state finals, losing in four sets to Greely in 2011 and in four sets to Falmouth two years ago. After being ousted in the quarterfinals in 2014, the Red Storm had an up-and-down regular season this fall, losing five matches, but as the No. 5 seed, Scarborough saved its best for the postseason.
After holding on to beat No. 12 Biddeford in five sets in the preliminary round, the Red Storm won in four games at No. 4 Thornton Academy in the quarterfinals, then shocked top-ranked Cape Elizabeth, the defending champion, in four sets in Wednesday’s semifinals, somewhat avenging last year’s playoff ouster.
In the regular season, the teams split, as Scarborough won in five sets in Cumberland Sept. 8 and Greely downed the host Red Storm in four games Oct. 6.
Saturday, in front of a raucous, packed house, Scarborough finally ascended to the throne.
After North Yarmouth Academy’s team members, who won the Class B Sportsmanship Award (Windham won in Class A) sang a rousing rendition of the national anthem, the first point of the match went to the Red Storm, on a Foerster kill, but the Rangers took the lead for good, 3-2, on a Scarborough service fault. A kill from sophomore Sara Agren and an ace from sophomore Claire Davis made it 5-2. After a kill from Red Storm junior Jillian Harvie cut the deficit to 6-4, Greely junior Molly Chapin and Tebbs had kills, then Cimino dove to save the ball and somehow sent it over the net in the process for a point and a 9-4 lead.
Scarborough got back to 10-8 on a Foerster kill, but Tebbs had consecutive kills to push the lead to 12-8. The Red Storm got within 13-11, but a Cimino kill sparked a 3-1 run for a 16-12 lead. A kill from Scarborough junior Jordyn Cowan cut the deficit to one, 17-16, but Butland got the point back. After another Cowan kill made it 18-17, the Rangers got the next point and Butland served an ace. After Red Storm coach Jon Roberts called timeout, Greely senior Lauren Murley had a kill and Cimino made it 22-17 with a block. A kill from Cowan and a Foerster ace cut the deficit to three, but a fault and a Murley block put the Rangers on the brink of victory. After Scarborough got a point back, Butland set up Cimino for a kill and the Rangers took the first set, 25-20.
Cimino showed her dexterity in that game, accounting for almost half of Greely’s points with seven assists, three kills and a pair of blocks. Butland had six assists and four service points, while Tebbs had four kills.
When Butland served consecutive points, including an ace which skimmed over the top of the net, the Rangers had a quick start to the second set. The Red Storm tied it at 3-3 on an ace from Hanson, then went on top, 5-4, behind an ace from junior Abby Snow. Greely went back on top, 7-5, behind a Cimino kill and a Cimino ace, but out of a timeout, Scarborough rallied to tie at 7-7, 8-8 and 9-9 before going on top, 11-9, behind an ace from Marinko and a Cowan kill. The Rangers tied the score at 11-11, but the Red Storm went back ahead as Hanson went to her knees to deny a kill attempt by Cimino before Cowan won the point with a block.
“I love digging big hitters,” Hanson said. “I played with Kayley freshman year on a club team. She was a great setter and now she’s a great hitter and I wanted the challenge of taking her hits, her tips, everything. It means a lot to get those hits. I was excited.”
Greely rallied to lead, 14-12, on a Butland ace, then went up, 16-13, on an ace from Tebbs, but Scarborough refused to buckle.
A kill from Harvie started the rally. Sophomore Natalie Simonton then had a block and after the Rangers got a point back, Harvie and Marinko had kills to tie the score and another Snow ace put the Red Storm on top. Another Scarborough point forced Greely coach Kelvin Hasch to call timeout and his charges responded, as Tebbs had a kill and Butland had another to make it 19-19. Undaunted, the Red Storm got the next three points, highlighted by kills from Marinko and Foerster, to lead 22-19. The see-saw set continued as the Rangers ran off the next four points, thanks to kills from Chapin and Tebbs, a Scarborough mis-hit and an ace from sophomore Coco Petrone, which made it 23-22 Greely.
At that point, an air of inevitability appeared to hang over the match, as the Rangers appeared primed to seize control and go on to another championship, as they had in so many previous late Octobers, but the Red Storm refused to let it happen.
A service fault opened the door and tied the set, then Marinko served an ace. Scarborough then took the set, 25-23, when Greely hit the ball out and just like that, the match was tied, 1-1, and momentum had inexorably shifted to the Red Storm.
“We realized we had jitters in the first set, then we shut them out,” Hanson said. “We knew the team that let go of their nerves first was going to win. Second set, we focused on us. We shut out the noise and just played our ball. We knew we had control of our outcome and we had a chance to make history and we took it and ran with it.”
The Red Storm scored the first point of the third game, but the Rangers got the next four behind kills from Tebbs and Cimino, a Murley block and a Cimino kill. Scarborough caught up at 6-6 behind another breathtaking Hanson diving save, but Butland had consecutive kills to put Greely on top, 8-6. After the Red Storm tied the set again, a kill from Chadbourne made it 9-8 Scarborough. The Rangers answered to lead, 12-10, before Scarborough took over.
With Foerster serving, a kill from Cowan tied the set and a kill from junior Haley Nelson put the Red Storm ahead for good, 13-12. Another Scarborough point precipitated a Hasch timeout, but it didn’t help, as Foerster served an ace, then another point for a 17-12 lead.
“I just settled down and got the nerves out of my system and got the ball in,” Foerster said.
A kill from Cimino ended the 7-0 run and Foerster’s six-point service run, but the Red Storm got the next point before Hanson served successive aces for a 20-13 lead, which proved to be the largest advantage of the match for either team. Greely got three points back, but a kill from junior Caroline Goodwin made it 21-16 Scarborough. A Cimino kill was countered by a Marinko block as the Red Storm inched closer to victory. After a fault and a Tebbs kill pulled the Rangers within 22-19, Scarborough got the next point. A Tebbs kill kept Greely alive, but the Red Storm got the next point and out of a Rangers’ timeout, Chadbourne served up an ace to complete the 25-20 victory.
Scarborough showed its depth and balance in the third game, as Foerster had six service points, Hanson had five service points, Marinko added four kills, Chadbourne had two kills, two assists and an ace and Nelson had two kills and two blocks.
The Red Storm were closer than ever to a state title and they weren’t about to squander their opportunity in the fourth set.
The score was tied at 2-2 and 5-5 before a kill from Simonton sparked a 3-0 run, capped by a Marinko kill, for an 8-5 Scarborough lead. Greely crept back to 9-8 on a Chapin kill, then went on top, 11-10, on a Tebbs kill, but that would prove to be the Rangers’ final lead of the season.
A block from Chadbourne tied the score and three straight Chadbourne aces opened up a 14-11 advantage. A Harvie kill then made it 15-11. A kill from Tebbs stemmed the tide and Tebbs and Cimino added kills to cut the deficit to 15-14, but a service fault opened the door for the Red Storm to go on a 5-0 run, highlighted by kills from Cowan and Hanson, for a 20-14 advantage. Greely answered behind a pair of kills from Cimino and a Murley block to make it 20-17 and force Roberts to call timeout.
“Coach told us to keep our heads up, that this was what we played for and to stay loose and aggressive,” Marinko said.
“I told them to stay aggressive and not get soft,” Roberts said. “I didn’t want to lose that way. I told them to keep swinging and play the way we always play.”
Out of the break, Cimino had a block to make it a two-point game, but Harvie had a kill to make it 21-18. After a Cimino kill again cut the Rangers’ deficit to two, Marinko answered with two clutch kills for breathing room. Kills from Cimino and Agren cut Scarborough’s lead to 23-21, but Greely then hit the ball out long and the Red Storm were a single point away. Out of a Rangers’ timeout, Greely stayed alive as Chapin had a kill, but with the Rangers on the verge of pulling within one and putting all the pressure on Scarborough, first Gorey, then Foerster somehow kept the ball alive and after the Red Storm returned it over the net, Greely failed to do the same, hit it out and at 1:51 p.m., after 110 palpitating minutes, the 12-year-old Scarborough program had its first championship by virtue of a 3-1 state final victory.
“This is absolutely amazing,” Marinko said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better last game in this uniform. It’s really surreal. I’m so thankful to everyone who helped us get here. I think the doubt people had of us really pushed us and left us with no pressure. Each team we played had more pressure. We went out there and played loose and wanted to prove people wrong and show them that this is how Scarborough plays and works together.”
“It’s unbelievable, so exciting,” Foerster said. “I’m so proud of my team. We’re such a family. I’m so happy. We all believed in ourselves. We kept our cool and knew we could do it. Everybody did their job today.”
“I think it’s fitting it ended on a hustle play,” Roberts added. “That’s just been our season. That’s the definition of how we play. That was awesome. A great way to finish. I’m really proud of the girls. Greely played amazing. In the first game, they looked almost unstoppable. There was a real chance my kids could have put their heads down and not fought. I’m super-proud they kept fighting.
“We’ve had the players to do it before, but we didn’t have the right mindset to do it before. (These girls) had the mindset that no matter what, we’d play the next ball. That made all the difference. Teams in the past would’ve gotten upset about the other team making a great play, but these girls kept playing. Expectations are really hard. It really helped us to not have that this year. We knew going in we had a strong team and we had a possibility to win.”
Several players stepped up huge statistically.
Marinko finished with 11 kills, three blocks and three aces in her swan song and she credited her teammates for her stats.
“Emily is a rock in the back row,” said Marinko. “Chloe Gorey ran balls down like there’s no tomorrow. She’s the hustle player of the year. Without our solid back row and their defensive effort, I wouldn’t have gotten a chance for kills.”
Hanson bowed out with six service points, including three aces, and an untold number of highlight reel digs.
Foerster had 12 service and six kills.
Chadbourne had 12 assists, four aces and three kills.
Goodwin assisted on 14 points and had an ace.
Cowan had eight kills and five blocks.
Snow had six service points, including two aces.
Gorey added five service points in her final match.
Harvie had five kills.
Junior Lilly Young finished with four assists.
Nelson had two kills and two blocks.
Simonton wound up with two kills and a block.
“Our depth helped us a ton,” Roberts said. “There was a stretch where Kacey served a bunch of points and I got great play from all three setters. They set really well. Libby Chadbourne did not give up on defense and made some great hustle plays.”
The last time Greely lost a state final, the date was Nov. 2, 2002. The match was played in Machias and was preceded the same day by the semifinals.
The Rangers have experienced a lot of glory during the intervening years, but the sting of Saturday’s close call will linger.
“We started having passing problems in the second set and got out of our game plan, which was to hit the ball,” said Hasch, who earlier this year won his 200th career match. “(Scarborough) played really well. They didn’t hit a lot, but they got everything back over and let us make mistakes. The girls went out there and gave the best they could. It just didn’t turn out the way we wanted it. Still, it’s a great memory for them. They accomplished a lot.”
Greely was paced by Cimino, who stuffed the stat sheet with 23 assists, 14 kills and three blocks.
Tebbs bowed out with 19 kills and six service points.
Butland’s swan song produced 22 assists, 11 service points, four kills and a block.
Chapin had a solid match, producing nine kills and six blocks.
Davis and Petrone both had six service points, Murley had five blocks and Agren had two kills.
The Rangers will miss Butland, Murley and Tebbs, but a strong returning core, led by Chapin and Cimino, and also featuring Agren, Davis and Petrone, likely means Greely will be in the hunt for the 2016 championship.
“(Alex, Hannah and Lauren) did a lot for us,” Hasch said. “We depended on Hannah a lot to set and play defense and we depended on Alex to hit the ball. We’ll miss them, but I have a feeling we’ll be back next year. We’ll see what happens.”
Speaking of next year, Scarborough will have the pieces in place to go back-to-back.
“Next year, it will be hard to have expectations,” Roberts said. “We just saw that with Cape. We have a lot of kids back, but we lose three really great seniors who were key to this team.”
The Red Storm lose Gorey, Hanson and Marinko to graduation, but everyone else returns.
“The seniors were so amazing,” Foerster said. “They always supported us no matter what.”
At least one graduating player will be keeping a close eye on next year’s squad.
“I’ll be here throughout the whole summer, going to camps and open gyms,” said Hanson. “There’s so much potential on next year’s team. I’ve watched them grow. I’m really excited for them. They have a great front row and a great back row. They also have chemistry and if you don’t have chemistry, you don’t have a great team.”
Scarborough sophomore Natalie Simonton stuffs Greely sophomore Sara Agren.
Scarborough senior Chloe Gorey prepares one of her dangerous serves.
Greely sophomore Coco Petrone goes to the floor to save the ball.
Scarborough senior Taylor Marinko and Greely junior Molly Chapin meet at the net.
Scarborough junior Jordyn Cowan (18) and sophomore Kacey Foerster defend the kill attempt of Greely junior Kayley Cimino.
Scarborough senior Taylor Marinko blocks the shot of Greely junior Molly Chapin.
Scarborough sophomore Kacey Foerster soars for a kill as Greely seniors Hannah Butland (2) and Lauren Murley defend.
Greely 3 Biddeford 1
Greely 3 Scarborough 1
Greely 3 Falmouth 0
Greely 3 MDI 0
Greely 3 MDI 1
Greely 3 MDI 0
Greely 3 MDI 1
Greely 3 MDI 0
Greely 3 Woodland 0
Woodland 3 Greely 2
Falmouth 3 Scarborough 1
Greely 3 Scarborough 1