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GORHAM—Yarmouth’s volleyball team began the week looking to find its identity.
It’s fair to say the defending Class B state champion Clippers have found it.
And that’s bad news for the rest of the state.
Thursday evening, 48 hours after a statement victory at Class A powerhouse Biddeford, Yarmouth went to Gorham, another Class A contender, and kept the good times rolling.
The Clippers got off to a slow start in the first set, but rallied behind strong net play from junior Heather Clark to win, 25-18. After the Rams took the second game, 25-19, Yarmouth was unfazed and behind the service brilliance of junior Kenzie Sheehan, shot to a 7-0 lead in the third set and never looked back en route to a 25-15 victory. Sheehan got things going again in the fourth set, as the Clippers raced to a 14-7 advantage, but Gorham came back and even led, 19-18, but Yarmouth wouldn’t be denied, winning seven of the next eight points and when Clark blocked a shot, it had a 25-20 win and took the match three games to one.
The Clippers made it four straight victories, improved to 4-1 and dropped Gorham to 3-4 in the process.
“It was pretty intense,” said Sheehan, who finished with 17 service points, 11 aces and eight kills. “We were so hyped to beat Biddeford and it just carried on to this one. Beating Biddeford was a big eye-opener for everybody. I really like playing Class A teams more because we get so hyped up. We have a really young team, but it’s a pretty strong team. I’m really happy to be playing with these girls.”
Yarmouth won the Class B title in 2011, but wasn’t able to repeat in 2012. Coming off last year’s dramatic championship, the Clippers had a lot of holes to fill, but their quest to go back-to-back is alive and well.
Yarmouth had to go to the state’s premier program, Greely, in the opener, but gave the Rangers a challenge before losing in four sets. The Clippers then blanked visiting North Yarmouth Academy and Lake Region before earning one of the biggest regular season victories in program history when they went to perennial contender Biddeford and after dropping the first set, 25-14, took the next three (25-23, 25-16, 25-12).
Gorham lost its first two matches, 3-0 at Scarborough and 3-0 at home against Biddeford. The Rams then blanked host South Portland (3-0), but lost at Greely (3-1). Gorham then downed visiting Windham (3-0) and host Kennebunk (3-0).
The Clippers and Rams didn’t meet a season ago. The last time they played was Sept. 12, 2012 (a 3-0 Gorham win at Yarmouth).
Thursday, the Clippers were seeking its first victory over the Rams since Sept. 13, 2011 (3-2 at home) and they would get it, but not without a fight.
Yarmouth found itself down, 6-1, in the first set after Gorham junior Ciara Stillson produced an ace and coach Jim Senecal called timeout to settle his team.
The Clippers slowly clawed their way back behind kills from Clark and sophomore Alison Clark and the serving of sophomore Sydney St. Pierre, whose ace gave Yarmouth its first lead, 11-10. She added another before the Rams ended a 5-0 run. Four aces in a row from Sheehan extended the lead to 16-11, but Gorham won the next three points. After Heather Clark had back-to-back kills, the Clippers enjoyed a 20-14 edge, but the Rams cut the lead to 20-17 on a kill from sophomore Diana Kolb. Heather Clark sandwiched kills around a Gorham point and Sheehan closed out the set with consecutive kills to give Yarmouth the 25-18 victory.
“We made all these mistakes in game one,” Senecal said. “It was frustrating. When we rallied with them, we were OK. When we missed serves and gave points away, we weren’t. We have to stop making unforced errors. We have to stay off the net and have better hands. We had a lot of double hits tonight. It’s stuff we can work on and correct.”
Luckily for the Clippers, Heather Clark, who transferred to Yarmouth from Florida prior to this school year, turned heads with six kills in the first set.
“It was easy to adapt (to the team),” Clark said. “I think my intensity on the court brings up everyone’s energy.”
“Heather is amazing at blocking,” Sheehan said. “She has a really strong hit and serve. We’re happy to have her.”
Yarmouth fell behind again in the second set, as an ace from Rams senior Maddie Bennett made it 6-3, but again, the Clippers rallied, tying the score on an ace from sophomore libero Rachel Chillé. Kills from Sheehan and senior Emily Parker put Yarmouth on top, 12-10, but this time, the Clippers weren’t able to take control. Gorham caught up, 16-16, on a kill from junior Chatham Mills. That point was part of a 7-0 run which turned a 16-14 deficit into a 21-16 lead. Yarmouth looked to rally, but couldn’t do so and a kill from Mills and a ball hit into the net closed the door on the Rams’ 25-19 win to tie the match at a set apiece.
Any momentum Gorham might have enjoyed disappeared as soon as Sheehan stepped to the service line to start game three.
Her first serve went for an ace.
The second wasn’t returnable either.
Sheehan then had an ace on her third serve.
And another on her fourth.
At that point, Gorham coach Nicole Rizzo tried to stem the tide by taking a timeout, but Sheehan produced an amazing two more aces and a block from junior Morgan Hamre capped a dazzling and dizzying run of seven straight points to put Yarmouth firmly in control of the third set.
“When I hit my first serve, I get in a zone and I keep powering through,” Sheehan said. “After I get one, I get hyped and into it.”
“Kenzie excels on the back line and she’s fantastic serving,” Senecal said. “She’s one of the best in the state in any class. She’ll probably lead both leagues in aces this year. She does a great job.”
The Rams tried to rally, but Heather Clark wouldn’t let it happen. After the hosts got to within 16-12, Clark had a kill which sparked a three-point run to push the lead to seven. Gorham got two straight points, forcing Senecal to call timeout, but the Clippers scored three in a row, capped by a Clark kill and Rizzo then called timeout. Sophomore Andrea St. Pierre short-circuited that attempt to change momentum by delivering an ace and after the Rams got a point back, Alison Clark had back-to-back kills to cap the 25-15 set victory.
“We obviously count on Heather for a lot of our offense, but our outside hitters, when they get good sets, they’re as good as anybody,” Senecal said.
Sheehan had eight service points in the game.
The fourth set would start similarly to the third, but this time, Gorham rallied and gave Yarmouth a scare, before the Clippers would demonstrate their championship form and hold on.
After the Rams won the first point, on a kill from sophomore Kristen Curley, Parker won the next point for Yarmouth with a kill and back to the service line went Sheehan. After the Clippers won a point, Sheehan had consecutive aces. A point later, she delivered another and the score was quickly 6-1.
The Rams pulled within 7-5 on a block from Curley, but a Heather Clark block and kill, an Alison Clark kill, then another Heather Clark kill after a spectacular save from Chillé put the Clippers back on top by six, 11-5. Gorham kept coming, however, and drew even at 16-16 on another Curley block, capping a 9-2 run. Sheehan put Yarmouth back ahead with a kill, then made it 18-16 with her final ace, a shot which hit the top of the net, then dropped over. The Rams then won three straight points to go up, 19-18, and the Clippers were on the verge of getting taken to a winner-take-all fifth game.
It didn’t happen.
Yarmouth rallied to tie the score, 20-20. Then, Gorham hit a shot long and Heather Clark had a kill, making it 22-20 and forcing Rizzo to call timeout.
It was too little, too late.
Out of the timeout, Clark had another kill, Andrea St. Pierre delivered an ace and Clark ended matters with a block.
The Clippers’ 25-20 victory ended the match 3-1 in their favor.
“This says we can beat Class A teams,” Heather Clark said. “We’re not just a little Class B team that everyone thinks they can beat. We have strong players and we can win. I really love the energy we have. There’s so much intensity. We keep our heads in the game. Sometimes we get down, but we keep our energy up because that’s what wins games.”
“When we were losing, we pulled it together and tried to stay as one on the court,” Sheehan said. “That really helps.”
“We feel good about the win,” Senecal added. “We feel good about the week. This is huge for us. We like to think of ourselves of the little Class B team, but we won’t be able to do that anymore.
“I’m having a great time with these kids. I thought we might have a slower start. We lost to Greely, but everyone’s losing to Greely. We rotated 11 kids into the lineup. It’s not because I’m trying to be nice, those kids play the best position for us. It keeps everybody involved and when we close out late games, we’re fresh.”
Heather Clark finished with 13 kills and nine blocks.
“I really like how Heather has fit in with the other kids,” Senecal said. “Socially, I’m really happy for her. She loves the girls and she loves the team. She’s really learned a lot about Maine volleyball. She’s been a great addition.”
Chillé, who came to volleyball from soccer this fall, received 38 serves and had 19 digs and nine service points. She was named Player of the Match by the Yarmouth coaches.
“Rachel had one of the best matches I’ve seen her play,” said Senecal. “She was all over the place. She was fantastic in the back row.”
Andrea St. Pierre finished with 12 service points, four aces and also received 20 serves.
Sydney St. Pierre received 17 serves.
Junior Noelle Yunker had 16 assists.
Gorham is back in action next week at Thornton Academy and Cheverus and at home versus Lake Region. The Rams also have key home matches remaining against Cape Elizabeth and defending Class A champion Falmouth.
Yarmouth will see a couple Down East foes Saturday when both Bucksport and Sumner pay a visit. After hosting Kennebunk Wednesday, the Clippers will take a pivotal trip to Washington Academy and Machias on Saturday, Oct. 4, matches which will go a long way toward determining just how much Yarmouth will have to travel in the playoffs (if at all).
The Clippers also have matches remaining at home versus Cheverus and at Cony, NYA and Windham.
There is still plenty of work to do, but the pieces are in place to secure more hardware.
“We still have to talk more,” said Clark. “Communication helps a lot. I think our talent is definitely there.”
“We hope to have a lot of home playoff games,” Sheehan said. “We hope to have a huge fan section. I think we have the potential to (go all the way) again.”
“We can’t take (Bucksport and Sumner) for granted,” Senecal added. “We hope that works out, then after Kennebunk, we have the big trip. Those will be huge matches. I think WA is a lot like Gorham. They don’t have huge kids, but they have athletic kids. They’ll be fired up. It’s going to be fun because I think the whole town will be there. It will be a great atmosphere for the kids.”
Yarmouth sophomore defensive specialist Rachel Chillé (20), who had a tremendous match, is joined by (from left) junior Noelle Yunker, junior Morgan Hamre, sophomore Sydney St. Pierre, senior Emily Parker and junior Heather Clark in a post-point celebration.
Yarmouth junior Kenzie Sheehan delivers one of her many aces.
Yarmouth junior Liz Clark sets the ball for a teammate.
Yarmouth juniors Morgan Hamre (left) and Heather Clark create a wall at the net as they look to block the shot of Gorham junior Ciara Stillson.
Yarmouth senior Emily Parker shows her form at the net.
Yarmouth junior Kenzie Sheehan soars for a kill. Sheehan was even more potent from the service line in the Clippers’ victory.
Yarmouth sophomore Sydney St. Pierre stops a Gorham shot.
Yarmouth junior Cat Thompson soars to block a shot from Gorham sophomore Diana Kolb.
Yarmouth had a lot to celebrate Thursday, including a point where sophomore Andrea St. Pierre (1), junior Cat Thompson (22) and sophomore Rachel Chillé whooped it up.
Yarmouth junior Morgan Hamre beams after the Clippers win a point during Thursday evening’s 3-1 win at Gorham.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.