YARMOUTH—The best team in the history of the Yarmouth volleyball program is just one win away from another championship trophy.
The Clippers, who excelled during the regular season, began their postseason Wednesday when they visited a squad which traveled a long, long way, Woodland, in a Class B semifinal and made quick of the Dragons.
In a match which spanned a mere 55 minutes, top-ranked Yarmouth never left any doubt, winning the first set, 25-13, thanks to 10 aces. In the second set, sophomore Rachel Chillé put on a show, producing 12 straight service points in one stretch as the Clippers prevailed, 25-9. Then, after fourth-seeded Woodland hung tough in the third set, even leading as late as 16-15, Yarmouth surged to the finish line and junior captain Liz Clark’s ace put a fitting punctuation mark on a 25-20 victory, giving the Clippers the match, 3-0.
Yarmouth produced 29 of its 75 points on aces, improved to 14-1 with its 14th consecutive victory, ended the Dragons’ season at 11-5 and advanced to meet Machias (14-2) in the Class B Final Saturday at 2 p.m. in Ellsworth.
“The goal was just to stay together as a team and really focus and channel all of our energy in a positive way and not get down on ourselves,” said Chillé. “Volleyball’s a mental game, but we stuck together today.”
Yarmouth lost its first match, way back on Sept. 5, 3-0, at perennial powerhouse Greely. Then, the Clippers flipped a switch and rolled over 13 straight opponents, winning 39 sets while dropping just two and beating seven Class A foes along the way.
Yarmouth’s 13-1 record gave it the top seed in Class B and with it, a bye into the semifinal round.
Woodland, meanwhile, went 10-4 in the regular season, then, as the No. 4 seed, ousted No. 5 Bucksport in the quarterfinals.
The Clippers and Dragons didn’t play this season and had no playoff history.
Wednesday, all of Yarmouth’s strengths were on display, especially at the service line, and the Clippers sent Woodland packing in about a quarter of the time it took the Dragons to make the trip south.
After Woodland took a 3-1 lead in the first set, capped by a pair of aces from junior Sara Boies, Yarmouth got it going on a block from junior Heather Clark. With the score tied, 5-5, the Clippers went ahead to stay. Yarmouth gradually opened it up, as the Dragons had five service faults. A kill from senior captain Emily Parker and three straight aces from St. Pierre sent the Clippers to the brink and when Woodland hit the ball into the net, Yarmouth had a 25-13 first game victory.
St. Pierre had four aces in that set.
“We’re naturally good servers,” said St. Pierre. “I’ve played softball for a long time and I’m a pitcher. I’ve learned to strengthen my arms. I’m confident at the line. It was a good confidence booster for us. It was good not to start flat.”
“I think we really picked up our serving through the season,” Parker said. “It helps us a lot.”
“The whole gym lights up when (Andrea) serves,” added Yarmouth coach Jim Senecal. “She serves aggressively. She gets more points than she makes mistakes. It’s been helpful for us.”
In the second set, the Dragons again went up early (3-1), but a kill from Heather Clark put the Clippers on top to stay, 5-4. Chillé then stepped to the service line and put on a show.
After producing one point, Yarmouth got a kill from sophomore Alison Clark.
Chillé then served consecutive aces and after three more service points, she added three more. An Alison Clark kill and one more point made it 17-4. Woodland got the next point, but Chillé’s service had produced 12 points in succession.
I’ve been practicing my jump serve lately,” Chillé said. “It started as a joke, then it kind of just stuck.”
Chillé didn’t even play a year ago, but has become an integral member of this squad.
“I played club volleyball for four years with Maine Juniors and I decided to switch from soccer,” Chillé said. “I’ve really enjoyed it.”
“I’m glad (Rachel) made the decision to commit to volleyball,” said Senecal. “She loves the sport. She’s really our glue in the back line. She doesn’t move as much as other liberos, but she knows where to go before the hit. She has that instinct. Having her in the back row is huge for us. She’s a great passer. She sets up our hitters very well.”
Yarmouth never looked back from there and kills from Alison Clark and junior Kenzie Sheehan and an ace from Liz Clark set the stage for Heather Clark to serve an ace to close out the 25-9 second set victory.
Then, things got a little more difficult.
Woodland started the third set with a pair of aces from junior captain Sierra Barnes. When Boies had a kill, then two aces, the Dragons were up, 6-1, and Senecal had to call timeout.
“There’s not much to tell the kids other than to tell them they hadn’t won anything yet,” Senecal said. “It was 2-0 and they knew that 2-0 does not win because we came back from that last year in the state final.
“It’s not what we say. We just want to break the rhythm of the other team and get our kids to feel more relaxed and to get them to stay aggressive.”
Kills from Heather Clark and junior Morgan Hamre started the comeback. Consecutive St. Pierre aces, including one which hit the net then dropped over, and a kill from Sheehan pulled the Clippers within 11-10.
“Coach called timeout and we focused and came together,” said Chillé. “We thought about what we’ve wanted since June.”
Woodland extended its lead back to 15-10, but a service fault gave Yarmouth renewed life and Sheehan had a kill and Hamre delivered back-to-back aces to cut the deficit to 16-15 and force Dragons coach Michelle Cochran-Barnes to call timeout.
It didn’t work, as Alison Clark’s ace tied it, junior Noelle Yunker’s kill put the Clippers ahead to stay and a kill from Parker and another Alison Clark ace pushed the lead to 20-16. Another Woodland timeout produced three straight points, capped by a kill from senior Daynah Brown, but the champions wouldn’t denied, as Sheehan served two aces, Yarmouth got two more points and Liz Clark closed out the 55-minute match with an ace, giving the Clippers the 25-20 set victory and a 3-0 decision.
“It hit me halfway through that this was the last time I would play here, so this was a great way to end it,” Parker said. “We had a strong practice yesterday which really helped us. We had confidence coming in.”
“Our kids feel like we can compete with anybody,” said Senecal. “I’m glad we came out like we did. (Woodland) poured everything out. They gave us everything they had.”
In all, Yarmouth had a whopping 29 aces.
“Our hitters weren’t complaining, but they couldn’t get any kills today,” Senecal said. “We have such strong service. It doesn’t seem to matter who we put in there.”
St. Pierre led the way with eight aces. Chillé added five, part of her 12 service points. Sheehan finished with four kills and three aces, Parker had eight assists, five services points and three aces and Alison Clark added five service points, two aces and four kills.
A big assist also had to go to the Yarmouth crowd, which turned out in big numbers to cheer on the Clippers.
“We usually don’t have the biggest crowd, so a big shout-out to those who came,” said Chillé. “I was taught to play for someone who can’t see me play. Tonight, I played for grandmother who couldn’t be here.”
Yarmouth is now just one win from its third title in four seasons and its second in succession, but Machias will pose a challenge.
The Clippers won at Machias by a 3-0 score in the regular season. Yarmouth beat Machias in the 2011 quarterfinals (3-0) and lost to the Bulldogs in the 2012 quarterfinals (3-1).
This Clippers team knows it’s just 75 points from winning another crown and they’re not about to fall short.
“We just have really good chemistry,” St. Pierre said. “We all love each other and we work together really well. We have to play confident and play loose. I think we can do it.”
“Saturday’s the one that counts,” said Chillé. “We have to stay together as a team and stay connected and focus on our ultimate goal.”
“I think we’re a little bit better than last year, which is really exciting,” Parker said. “We have to come play how we play and come in with confidence and excitement. When we have excitement, we play well.”
“We always play in the Ellsworth gym in the preseason,” Senecal added. “The kids like the gym and have played well there. We’re confident. We know if we play our best volleyball, we’ll be successful. We also know that if we don’t, we won’t.”
Yarmouth junior Morgan Hamre smacks the ball over the net.
Yarmouth senior Emily Parker sets the ball for a teammate as junior Noelle Yanker looks on.
Yarmouth junior Kenzie Sheehan soars for a kill.
Yarmouth junior Cat Thompson shows her form at the net.
Yarmouth junior Noelle Yunker sets the ball for classmate Kenzie Sheehan.
Yarmouth sophomore Rachel Chillé beams after a point. Chillé had 12 straight service points, including five aces, during a second set run.
Yarmouth sophomore Andrea St. Pierre (left) and junior Kenzie Sheehan celebrate after the Clippers make quick work of Woodland in a three-set victory in Wednesday’s Class B semifinal. Yarmouth will look to repeat as state champion Saturday when it battles Machias.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.