Undefeated Deering finally meets its match; Rams fall at home to Biddeford

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Deering senior Avery Donovan goes up for a kill as Biddeford junior Grace Martin soars for a block during the teams’ showdown Tuesday night. The Tigers handed the Rams their first loss, 3-1.

Joe Carpine / 365digitalphotography.com.

More photos below.

PORTLAND—Deering’s volleyball team is indeed the real deal, but for one night at least, the Rams didn’t have all the answers.

Tuesday evening, undefeated Deering hosted one of the state’s perennial powers, Biddeford, and faced its share of adversity, but the Rams battled throughout and while they fell short, they set the stage for even bigger things when the postseason begins.

The Tigers made an immediate statement, scoring six straight points to start the match and never trailing en route to a 25-15 win in the first set.

Deering then hit its stride in the second game and behind the setting and serving of junior Maddy Broda, the power of senior Avery Donovan and the emotion and serving of senior Dianne Dervis, rallied to even the match, as four straight Dervis aces closed out a 25-18 victory.

When the Rams raced to a 13-6 lead in the third set, they envisioned staying perfect, but Biddeford’s ability to keep even impossible-to-save shots off the floor and extend points allowed it to rally and prevail, 25-19.

With the match on the line, Deering hung tough in the fourth set, but the Tigers made too many plays in pivotal situations and went on to a 25-17 victory to close out the match, 3-1.

Biddeford improved to 10-2 and handed the Rams their first setback in 13 matches in the process.

“You expect a team with Biddeford’s tradition to take it to you, but I like to think we gave something back and just came up short,” said Deering coach Larry Nichols. “It’s been a good ride. It’s been a treat.”

Big-time excitement

Deering is in just its third varsity season, but has already made a seismic impact.

After going .500 as a start-up program in 2015, the Rams won nine matches and made the playoffs a year ago. This season started with a flourish and Deering hasn’t looked back.

On Opening Night, the Rams went to perennial powerhouse Scarborough, the 2015 Class A champion and runner-up a year ago, and stunned the Red Storm in five-sets. Deering then blanked visiting Portland, host Thornton Academy, visiting South Portland, visiting Marshwood, visiting Windham, host Gorham and visiting Cheverus before finally being pushed to a fourth set before prevailing at Bonny Eagle in a playoff rematch. The Rams then returned to their dominant ways, blanking host Massabesic and Ellsworth, before downing host Mt. Desert Island in four sets Saturday.

“The kids worked hard in the preseason and have carried it off,” Nichols said. “They try to get better in areas that are new to them. I ask them to try things and volleyball IQ-wise, so I couldn’t be more proud.”

Biddeford has long been a Class A contender and the 2017 Tigers started with 3-0 wins over visiting Cheverus and at defending Class A champion Greely, then dropped a five-set home decision to Cape Elizabeth. Biddeford bounced back to defeat host Windham and visiting Thornton Academy in four sets and swept host Portland and visiting Gorham. After a five-set home loss to Falmouth, the Tigers won in three sets at Bonny Eagle, in five sets at South Portland and in three sets over visiting Massabesic.

Tuesday, in the first-ever meeting between the schools, Biddeford showed why it’s always on the short list of title favorites, but Deering proved that it will be a force to be reckoned with as well.

The serving of junior Grace Boisvert helped the Tigers open the first set with six straight points to put the Rams in a hole they couldn’t climb out of. A kill from Donovan got Deering on the board, Broda added an ace and the hosts got another point, but Biddeford frustrated the Rams by keeping the ball alive and a kill from junior Grace Martin made it 9-3. Deering drew back within 15-13 and 16-14, but the next five points, highlighted by blocks by Martin and senior Mia Martel, went to the Tigers. Donovan countered with a kill, but Biddeford got kills from juniors Chantal Perrault and Sydney Gagne and an ace from junior Brooke Reissfelder ended it, 25-15.

In that first game, Reissfelder had eight assists and four service points, Martin added four kills and three blocks, Boisvert had six points and senior libero extraordinaire Julia Murray had five service points and numerous key saves. Broda had six assists for the Rams, but it wasn’t nearly enough.

When Deering won the first point of the second set, it led for the first time in the match and an ace from Broda and a kill from Dervis produced a quick 3-0 lead. The Tigers came back to lead, 4-3, on an ace from Boisvert and the game would be tied, 4-4, 5-5, 7-7, 8-8 and 9-9 before Biddeford raced to a 13-9 lead behind an ace from Martin and kills from Perreault and Gagne. Nichols then called timeout and the Rams rallied, pulling even at 15-15 and 16-16 before going ahead to stay on an ace from Broda. After a kill from Donovan and another Broda ace, Tigers coach Chantel Tourigny called timeout, but Donovan’s kill made it 20-16 in favor of the hosts. After kills from Martel and Martin made it a two-point set, a Donovan kill barely landed inbounds, sending Dervis to the service line. Dervis then served an ace and another ace and another ace and one more for good measure to clinch the set, 25-18.

Broda had eight assists and seven service points in the set, Donovan added four kills and Dervis had four aces to help even the match.

The third game would prove pivotal and after a fast start for Deering, went Biddeford’s way.

With the score tied, 5-5, the Rams rattled off six quick points, as the service of junior Catherine Balzano led the way. Tourigny called timeout and the Tigers got the next point on a kill from Boisvert, but kills from senior Divine M’Bambi and a M’Bambi ace made it 13-6 before Biddeford seized control from there.

A kill from Martel and an ace from Perreault cut the deficit to 13-10. After a block from junior Ava Spasch got a point back for Deering, kills from Martel and Martin helped make it a one-point set. The Rams got the next point, but Martel had a kill and an ace to tie it. After a Tigers’ service point put Deering back on top, the visitors got the next four points, capped by an ace from Reissfelder and a kill from Martin to make it 19-16 Biddeford. Kills from Donovan and M’Bambi pulled the Rams back within a point, but the Tigers responded and went back on top by three. After Deering got a point, Biddeford answered, then went up by four on an ace from Murray. Nichols called timeout, but it didn’t help, as twice the Rams couldn’t return the ball and the Tigers had a 25-19 third game victory and a 2-1 lead in the match.

In the fourth set, Deering hoped to extend the match to the limit, but Biddeford didn’t let it happen.

Consecutive aces Dervis, giving her six in a row, got the Rams off to a fast start, but kills from Martel, Martin and Martin again put the Tigers on top. After Dervis tied it with a kill, the Tigers went ahead on a kill from Martin. Biddeford stretched its lead to 8-4, but a kill from Dervis helped Deering rally to make it 9-9. A service fault then put the Tigers on top for good. Consecutive kills by Martel gave Biddeford a 14-10 lead and the Tigers soon had a 19-13 advantage. Kills from M’Bambi and Dervis cut the deficit to 19-16, but after a Biddeford timeout, the visitors got a kill from Martin. M’Bambi countered with a kill for Deering’s final point, but after the Rams couldn’t get the ball over the net, Boisvert had four straight kills to end it and the Tigers took the game, 25-17, to win the match in four games.

“It was impressive we bounced back,” said Tourigny. “It’s a loud gym and the last time we played in a loud gym, we didn’t bounce back. They all stayed confident that we could come back. The goal is to not let the ball hit the floor. We work on not getting burned in front of us. We’ll cover it tight. I was expecting (Deering) to be scrappy and earn some points. I thought it if we kept our unforced errors under 10 we’d be good and that’s what we did.”

Boisvert had 16 service points and nine kills, Martin added 17 kills, four blocks and four service points, Reissfelder 34 assists and 12 service points and Murray 11 service points and too many diving saves to count.

Deering was paced by 24 assists and 11 service points from Broda, 10 kills and five blocks from Donovan, seven kills and seven aces from Dervis, 10 service points from Balzano, six service points and four blocks from Spasch and seven kills and four service points from M’Bambi. 

“It’s probably the biggest crowd we’ve played for and for some of these kids, the biggest crowd they’ve ever done anything in front of,” Nichols said. “Then we had a team that plays such great defense. When your play doesn’t work, your mindset is to go the next piece in the recipe box. There were a couple times there when the play went just the way we practiced, then up came the ball. Then there was a rally scenario and it was a testimony to their defense. You can’t stand around after a play against them. At some crucial times, we didn’t take care of the ball and they did. 

“Cognitively, while I don’t like to lose, this couldn’t have happened at a better time for us. We had to think outside our comfort zone. For us, it’s a win-win. I remember throwing the ball to some of these kids for the first time in August, 2014. The girls have gotten exponentially better each week. That’s part of the fun of this season. I was really impressed that after Biddeford took the first set, we came back and took the second set. For a team with our ‘long history,’ that’s more impressive than taking a match. The kids responded. We’ll tap into that through the playoffs.”

Playoff tune-up

Biddeford (second in Class A) still has to host Scarborough Thursday and closes at Marshwood Tuesday of next week. The Tigers have a chance to move into the top spot before all is said and done.

“With the way the bracket is, this week is huge,” Tourigny said. “It’s the difference between finishing fourth versus battling for a top spot. The pressure is on, but it’s exciting. As long as we stay confident, we know we can do it.”

Deering (still first in Class A) closes at home versus Brunswick next Tuesday.

“A lot of teams weren’t taking us seriously and the kids knew that and they took it as an incentive,” Nichols said. “They knew they were getting better every week and were playing well and they took it upon themselves to prove that. We’ll learn from this and go back to the drawing board.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Deering senior Divine M’Bambi handles a shot.

Deering junior Maddy Broda serves the ball.

Deering senior Kristal Gonzalez hits the court to save the ball.

Deering senior Avery Donovan goes up for a kill as junior Maddy Broda looks on.

Deering senior Dianne Dervis exults after a victorious point.

Deering’s student showed up in large and vociferous numbers Tuesday.

Deering celebrates after winning a point.

Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.