Volleyball just keeps getting better

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(Ed. Note: For the complete Greely-Yarmouth and Falmouth-Cape Elizabeth game stories, with additional photos, see theforecaster.net)

If you’re looking for an exciting evening, find your closest gym and catch a volleyball match.

That’s because the quality of the sport has never been better.

Especially in Forecaster Country.

While you used to be able to sum up Maine volleyball as “Greely and everyone else”, the “everyone else” has erased that gap and as a result, fans of the sport are the ultimate winners.

So far this season, which is less than three weeks old, Falmouth has beaten Greely in five sets, Greely has beaten defending Class A champion Cape Elizabeth and Yarmouth in five sets, Yarmouth rallied past Scarborough in five sets and even North Yarmouth Academy has shown spirited play.

The Rangers started with five-set losses to Falmouth and Scarborough, but have now won five straight. Last week, Greely, blanked host Kennebunk and visiting Cheverus and Monday, the Rangers, who have nine state titles to their credit, earned arguably the most dramatic victory in their history.

At Yarmouth, Greely dropped the first set, 21-25, then won the second (25-21) and third (25-17), but the Clippers took the fourth set (19-25) to set up a winner-take-all, first-team-to-15-points fifth set. There, Yarmouth went up, 14-8, and was on the brink of a first-ever win over the Rangers, but Greely improbably fended off six straight match points to even things, 14-14. The Clippers won the next point to again reach the brink (a team has to win a set by two points), but the Rangers won the next three to steal the game, 17-15, and the match, 3-2.

“It’s so exciting,” said Molly Chapin, who made an impossible save to cut the fifth set deficit to 14-11. “I don’t even have words to describe it.”

“This one’s unlike any other win,” said Alex Tebbs, who had 17 kills. “Everyone put everything on the line and it paid off.”

“That was all heart,” said Kayley Cimino, who had 15 assists and 12 kills. “No matter the score, we had to keep our energy up the entire time. No one got down. Five sets seems to be our thing. I’d like to win in three, but we’ve been there and done it.”

“I’ll never forget this one,” added Greely coach Kelvin Hasch, who earned his 200th career victory. “It was just awesome. The girls had no idea about (200) until I told them after the match. They were so excited.”

Hasch marveled at how far the sport has come from his early years when the Rangers were running roughshod over the league.

“I’m so excited to see the overall level of play,” Hasch said. “People thought it was fun for us to beat up on everybody, but this is a lot more fun. We used to be lucky if we had one five-set match in a season, now we’ve had four already. It’s anyone’s game on anyone’s night. The whole season will be like that.”

Greely (5-2 and fourth in the Class A Heal Points standings at press time) will be tested at Biddeford Thursday and have a home showdown/playoff rematch versus Cape Elizabeth Tuesday.

Prior to hosting Greely, Yarmouth enjoyed a 3-0 win at Cheverus last week to extend its two-season win streak to 20. The Clippers, who won Class B titles in 2011, 2013 and again last year, moved up to Class A this season and have more than proved they belong. 

“It wasn’t that long ago when our program wasn’t anywhere near where we are today,” said Yarmouth coach Jim Senecal. “We’re very proud of what’s happened with our program. As more and more teams come in, you see new teams become quality teams. It’s great for the sport.”

The Clippers (who dropped from first to sixth in the Heals after their lone loss) host Mt. Desert Island Friday and go to Scarborough Tuesday.

Falmouth, the 2013 Class A champion and runner-up a year ago, was expected to come back to the pack this fall after being hard-hit by graduation and losing Gary Powers, the only coach the program had known, but the Yachtsmen won their first four matches, before losing at home to Cape Elizabeth last week, 3-1 (23-25, 18-25, 25-12, 21-25).

“This is a great group,” said first-year coach Molly Northway. “We’re a team and we all work together. We came back with two starters, but I’m so impressed with what we have.”

Falmouth (which sat first in Class A at press time) hoped to bounce back Tuesday, when it went to Scarborough (see theforecaster.net for match story).

Then there’s North Yarmouth Academy, which made the playoffs for the first time in 2013, then fell short with a 3-11 record a year ago. So far this fall, the Panthers resemble a contender again. After starting 1-2, NYA beat visiting Deering in a five-set thriller (12-25- 25-18, 25-22, 17-25, 15-10), then enjoyed a 3-0 (25-20, 25-18, 25-20) victory at Portland last week. Monday, the Panthers fell to 3-3 after a 3-1 (15-25, 25-17, 11-25, 18-25) loss at South Portland.

“The team’s off to a great start,” said NYA coach Nora Krainis. “The girls are learning what it takes to be competitive and are stepping up to improve their game overall. We’ve set several new team records so far this season and look forward to setting more.”

The Panthers (fourth in Class B) host Machias and Washington Academy Saturday.

Krainis is another veteran coach who can’t believe how far the sport has come. 

“When I started coaching in Maine 10 years ago, there may have been 10 high school teams competing in the state,” Krainis said. “Now, there are 30 that I know of. That’s so great for Maine. With the addition of high school teams, year-round volleyball programs, workshops with out-of-state coaches, online aids and summer opportunities, many more girls are involved and the sport has become much more competitive. I am so thankful for the ADs, officials and outside groups who support these girls and encourage growth of the sport. It’s a win-win situation. It’s great for the girls and great for the state.”

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

Sidebar Elements

Falmouth senior Lydia Farmer is one of several stellar volleyball players in Forecaster Country this season. Despite being hard-hit by graduation, the Yachtsmen are once again in the Class A title hunt.

Greely’s volleyball team celebrates a point during its improbable come-from-behind 3-2 win at Yarmouth Monday night.

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