Yarmouth’s volleyball team celebrates Saturday’s dramatic and unexpected 3-1 win at Biddeford in a Class A quarterfinal. The Clippers, playing without injured senior standout Rachel Chillé, earned their first trip to the Class A semifinals where they will face defending state champion Scarborough Wednesday night.
BIDDEFORD—Yarmouth’s volleyball team has won three Class B state titles, as well as a lot of other dramatic matches over the years, but it isn’t a stretch to call what the Clippers accomplished Saturday morning perhaps their finest hour.
Playing without senior standout Rachel Chillé, who suffered a concussion in Thursday’s match, Yarmouth, the No. 6 seed in Class A, was a decided underdog when it traveled to No. 3 Biddeford for a quarterfinal round match.
The Clippers, who dropped a five-set thriller Tuesday at Biddeford, gained early confidence, winning the first set, 25-19, behind pinpoint passing from sophomore Dominique Moran, eight kills from senior hitter extraordinaire Alison Clark and timely serving from senior Andrea St. Pierre.
The Tigers appeared poised to even the match in the second set when they went ahead, 12-3, but Yarmouth roared back, went ahead and prevailed, 25-21, on a Clark kill.
Biddeford benefited from a scoring error in the third game, getting an extra point which stretched its lead from 19-17 to 20-17 and the Tigers took advantage, holding on for a 25-22 win to extend the match.
Undaunted, the Clippers finished it off in the fourth set, as unheralded sophomore Olivia Robichaud, who got thrown into the fray due to Chillé’s injury, produced five service points, sophomore Ceanne Lyon, who is in her first varsity season, had four huge kills and after Biddeford cut a 23-16 deficit to 23-21, Clark’s final two kills slammed the door for good, giving Yarmouth a 25-21 set victory and the match, 3-1.
The Clippers won a Class A quarterfinal for the first time, improved to 12-4, ended the Tigers’ season at 13-3 and advanced to the semifinals, where they’ll travel to No. 2 Scarborough (15-1), the defending state champion, Wednesday at a time to be announced.
“I’m absolutely as proud of this win as any we’ve had,” said Yarmouth coach Jim Senecal. “We’ve had a lot of wins in our program, but this one is special. We beat a great team on their floor and their fans are tough. They got our kids into it. It was fun and it made for a great day.”
Yarmouth had a solid regular season, going 10-4 and earning the No. 6 seed in Class A. Thursday, the Clippers swept Windham in the preliminary round.
Biddeford lost to last year’s state finalists, Scarborough and Greely, but beat everyone else during a 12-2 campaign. As the No. 3 seed, the Tigers swept No. 14 South Portland in Thursday’s preliminary round.
Tuesday, host Biddeford held on for a five-set win over Yarmouth.
The teams split two prior playoff meetings, with the Clippers taking a state prelim in 2004, 3-0, and the Tigers winning, 3-1, in the 2009 Class A quarterfinals.
Friday evening, Senecal learned that Chillé, who collided with Clark in the first set of the preliminary round, had suffered a concussion and wasn’t cleared for action.
“I got the news last night that Rachel was going to be out,” Senecal said. “We took every precaution we could. You can’t take concussions lightly.”
The rest of the team got the news Saturday morning before getting on the bus to travel south.
Yarmouth then got to Biddeford and showed a ton of heart, skill and will.
The first point went to the hosts, but Clark answered with a kill. The teams were then tied at 2-2 and 4-4, when Tigers junior blocker Mia Martel suffered an ankle injury and had to leave. A kill from Lyon put the Clippers up, 6-4, but the Tigers rallied and drew even at 7-7 when sophomore Lexi Matteau dove to save the ball and sent it over the net for a point. A Clark kill put Yarmouth on top to stay and sophomore Marie LeBlanc followed with a block. On four different occasions, Biddeford drew within one, the last time at 13-12, but the Tigers faulted and Moran took over at the service line and delivered four straight points, including an ace. A Clark kill made it 18-12 and forced Biddeford coach Chantel Tourigny to call timeout.
It helped, as the hosts rattled off four straight points, including consecutive aces from senior Megan Friel. After the Tigers were betrayed by their own ceiling and Moran had a block for a 20-16 Yarmouth lead, Biddeford drew back within two n a kill from sophomore Grace Martin and a Matteau ace. Clark then put the Clippers back on her shoulders, producing successive kills. St. Pierre served an ace that barely landed inbounds and Moran fooled the Tigers, sending the ball over the net instead of setting it for Clark for a 24-18 lead. A kill from sophomore Grace Boisvert kept Biddeford alive, but Clark’s kill gave Yarmouth a 25-19 first set victory.
“Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect,” Senecal said. “Fortunately, we got out early in the first set. The kids, who probably thought they’d lose, got confident that they could stay with Biddeford.”
Moran had a stellar first game, producing eight assists and seven service points, and Clark hammered eight kills.
The Tigers shot to leads of 2-0 and 6-2 in the second set and when Martel returned to a big ovation, senior Kendra Cote served an ace for a 7-2 lead. Lyon got a point back with a kill, but Martin had a kill and Biddeford got the next three points as well to take a seemingly safe 12-3 lead. The Clippers didn’t buckle, however, as a Clark kill turned things around and St. Pierre had three straight service points, capped by an ace to make it 12-7. The hosts got the next point, but sophomore Marie LeBlanc had a kill, Clark had a block and senior Sydney St. Pierre sandwiched aces around a LeBlanc block and just like that, Yarmouth was within one, 13-12. After a Tigers’ timeout, they got a kill from Martel and a block from Cote, but Yarmouth kept answering and a pair of kills from Clark tied the score, 17-17.
The Clippers then went ahead and a kill from Clark extended the lead to 19-17. After the teams traded faults, Yarmouth got a kill from Clark, an Andrea St. Pierre ace and another point for a 24-19 advantage. A kill from senior Josie Sheltra, which barely landed inbounds, kept Biddeford’s hopes alive and Matteau added an ace, but a Clark kill gave the Clippers the set, 25-21, and a 2-0 match lead.
Clark had six more kills, Moran added nine assists and Andrea St. Pierre had five big service points.
There was still a long way to go and the Tigers weren’t about to get swept off their home court.
A block from Cote, an ace from senior Caitlin Rousselle and a kill from Friel gave Biddeford a quick 3-0 lead in the third game, but back roared Yarmouth with five straight points, which included a pair of aces from Clark. The Tigers went back on top, 8-5, with five successive points of their own, featuring a kill and a block from Cote. Biddeford extended its lead to 13-8, but again, the Clippers answered, pulling even, 15-15, on an ace from Sydney St. Pierre. After a Cote kill, Yarmouth appeared to tie the score again, but the point was reversed. A Clark kill cut the deficit to 18-17, but the Clippers faulted to make it 19-17.
Or so we thought.
After a long delay, a 20th point was added to the Tigers’ side of the scoreboard.
Biddeford got the next two points as well for a 22-17 advantage. Yarmouth rallied within 23-20 and after the Clippers gave a point away on a service fault, Clark had a kill and Andrea St. Pierre produced an ace to make it 24-22. They weren’t able to complete the rally, however, as a kill from Martel gave the Tigers the third set, 25-22.
Seven kills and four service points from Clark and eight more assists for Moran weren’t enough to counter three kills and three blocks from Cote.
Yarmouth would pull it out in the fourth game, but not without a struggle.
Clark got things started with an ace, but Cote countered with two kills. The Clippers retook the lead for good at 6-5, as Clark had a kill.
Robichaud then took center stage, serving consecutive aces for an 8-5 lead.
“I found out that I was playing at about 9:15 this morning and I was nervous,” Robichaud said. “I don’t normally play a lot. To be thrown in there without Rachel was pretty big, but we know everyone has equal roles on this team. One thing we do well is coming together and supporting each other. I was just trying to get my serves in.”
A Martel block pulled Biddeford within one, 8-7, but Lyon had a kill, Andrea St. Pierre served an ace, Clark had a block, LeBlanc had another, Yarmouth added a point and St. Pierre served another ace for a 14-7 lead.
Out of a timeout, the Tigers got back within 16-12 on an ace from Rousselle, but Lyon had a kill for an 18-13 lead. Cote answered with a thundering kill for the Tigers, but Lyon, on successive points, produced quieter kills to help extend the lead to 21-14.
“I’ve been learning a lot throughout the season,” said Lyon. “Alison and Rachel have helped me a lot.”
“Ceanne’s off-balance nature of her attack made the difference,” Senecal said. “She’s not a powerful hitter. I’m so proud of her. She’s a sophomore and she introduced herself to volleyball this year. We’ve asked her to be a middle blocker and she’s been effective. Today, we asked her to hit and she was great. Rachel and Alison are our strengths. We didn’t have Rachel, so we asked our middles to step up and do things they haven’t done in the past.”
Even when Yarmouth went up, 23-16, on a terrific kill from Clark, it wasn’t over.
Biddeford got five straight points, featuring three kills from Cote and, out of a timeout, an ace from Martel, but the Clippers knew what was at stake and squashed the Tigers’ rally.
In the biggest point of the match so far, Yarmouth was fortunate as the ball came to three of its best and most reliable players, as Andrea St. Pierre handled a shot, Moran set Clark and Clark’s kill put the Clippers one point from victory.
Which came quickly.
At 12:45 p.m, after 103 riveting minutes, Moran set up Clark for her final kill and Yarmouth was able to exult and celebrate its improbable win.
“It was amazing,” Clark said. “We fought hard and fought together and that’s what matters. We brought so much energy. We knew we had to win. There were a lot of tears when we found out (Rachel wasn’t going to play), but we truly believed we could win if we played our game. Rachel was on the bench with so much energy. Our communication was at its best today. It’s playoffs. We know we win or we go home. I love this team so much. We wanted it so badly.”
“We have a lot of heart,” Robichaud said. “We know no matter what happens, we go point by point and even if we lose a set, we haven’t lost the match.”
“We worked together as a team and we combined to make up for a loss of a great player,” said Lyon. “We had better communication than last time. That was really key.”
“They made that big push, the gym got loud, then here comes Alison, like we’ve seen all year long, with a big kill,” Senecal added. “We got that 24th point and once that happened, we were able to close them out. If it had gone five (sets), I think we would have been congratulating Biddeford. My girls were (tired).
“My goal was to be relaxed through the game and show that demeanor. I hoped that would transfer on to the floor for the kids. We made some adjustments to our lineup. The kids seemed prepared and poised. It was unbelievable. The strategy was to stop them from getting in their system and setting Kendra.”
Clark had a whopping 26 kills (to go with six service points and three blocks), but struggled at times getting the ball past the Tigers’ imposing front line.
“Their triple blocks made us have to think and communicate more and made our energy even higher,” Clark said.
Robichaud, who had nine service points, including two aces, drew rave reviews for her performance.
“Olivia is always so engaged on the bench and has so much energy,” Clark said. “She brought all that energy on to the court today and it was just amazing. She was awesome serving and passing. I’m really proud of her.”
“Olivia did an amazing job stepping up,” Lyon said. “She hasn’t played much this season, but she really came through.”
“Olivia Robichaud, who’s been a great teammate and sat on the bench all year long, was asked to come in and start in a key situation and she was great,” Senecal added.
Lyon had nine kills, including four in the fourth set.
“Ceanne helped us out so much,” Clark said. “We didn’t have to go outside every time. She’s become a strong passer and blocker. She was huge today.”
Andrea St. Pierre had 18 service points, including seven aces. Sydney St. Pierre added five points, including three aces.
Moran stuffed the stat sheet to the tune of 34 assists and 13 service points.
Biddeford was paced by Cote, who had 14 kills and four blocks, Friel, who had 22 assists, and Martin, who finished with nine kills.
Scarborough lost its first match this fall, at Greely, in a state rematch, but the Red Storm, ranked second in Class A, haven’t stumbled since. They blanked both No. 15 Marshwood and No. 7 Bonny Eagle to reach the semifinals.
Yarmouth lost, 3-1, at home to Scarborough on Sept. 20. The Red Storm won the lone prior playoff meeting, 3-0, in the 2007 West Region quarterfinals.
The Clippers, who hope to have Chillé back on the floor (if she’s cleared), know they’re playing with house money and they believe they can pen another inspirational chapter Wednesday.
“We’re a really strong team and we really believe in each other,” said Lyon. “We’ll keep practicing hard and work to get better every day.”
“I think we can keep going,” Clark said. “I’m so proud of this team. We played Scarborough tough last time. We weren’t really clicking at that point, but we’ve grown and I’m feeling confident.”
“We just have to keep our energy and momentum coming,” Robichaud said. “We have to keep bringing the heat.”
“We’ll be underdogs again,” Senecal added. “We’ll make some adjustments. We understand that Scarborough’s a great team. We know we’ll have to play our best game to stay with them. We did that last time. We took a game and there was another game where we were up. Hopefully, we’ll pass better and minimize our mistakes. If we do, I think we’ll be a pretty scary team to play.”