Yarmouth volleyball solves Greely for the first time

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Yarmouth junior Dominique Moran celebrates a point during the Clippers’ 3-0 home win over defending Class A state champion Greely Tuesday night. Yarmouth beat the Rangers for the first time in 24 all-time meetings.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

YARMOUTH—The 24th time was the charm.

And was it ever glorious.

After losing all 23 previous meetings against the state’s gold standard, the defending Class A champion Greely Rangers, the Yarmouth Clippers went out and did something about it Tuesday evening on their home court.

But as is always the case, the Rangers weren’t about to make it easy.

Both teams feature a lot of new faces this fall, but Yarmouth came into the match undefeated while Greely had split four previous matches.

That trend continued when the Clippers produced seven service aces and got four kills from freshman hitter Evelyn Lukis en route to a 25-19 first set victory.

Yarmouth never trailed in the second game and behind five more kills from Lukis and seven assists from junior setter Dominique Moran, prevailed, 25-17.

Greely dug deep in the third set and led most of the way, going up, 24-20, and getting to the brink of extending the match, but after a potential game-ending point was overturned, keeping the Clippers alive, Yarmouth sent freshman Kaitlyn Bennett to the service line and her acumen helped the hosts take a 25-24 lead and get within a point of victory.

Unlike two years ago, when the Clippers were in a similar spot, but couldn’t hold on, this time, they were able to close it out and their 26-24 win produced a historic 3-0 match victory.

Players both experienced and new came up big all evening and Yarmouth improved to 4-0 on the season and dropped the Rangers to 2-3 in the process.

“It’s great, a big moment for our program,” said Clippers coach Jim Senecal. “It’s the same feeling I had when we won the old Class B titles. It’s a feeling of an 0-23 burden being lifted. It means a lot to the program because we’re so young. It’s a big step.”

At last

Entering play Tuesday, Greely had won all 23 previous meetings (see sidebar, below), including a pair in the postseason. The only times Yarmouth came close to a victory was way back on Oct. 8, 2002 in Cumberland, a 3-2 Rangers’ victory and Sept. 21 2015, when the host Clippers led the fifth set, 14-8, and needed just one more point to close out the match, but they couldn’t get it and Greely captured the set, 17-15, and the match.

In 17 of the prior 23 encounters, including last fall, Greely prevailed, 3-0.

In fact, the Rangers won very regular season match last year by a 3-0 score, before downing Gorham, Falmouth and Scarborough by 3-1 margins to go on their record 10th state title. Greely lost some key contributors, led by Gatorade Player of the Year Kayley Cimino, to graduation, but still have the pieces in place to contend as it has been relegated down to Class B this fall due to the sport going to three classes.

The Rangers started with a four-set loss at Falmouth, then outlasted visiting Kennebunk in a five-set thriller. After a 3-0 home loss to Biddeford, Greely handled visiting Ellsworth in three sets.

Yarmouth got to the Class A semifinals in 2016, losing in four sets to Scarborough, and like Greely, the Clippers were hit by graduation and moved down to Class B this autumn.

Yarmouth won its first three matches by 3-0 scores, downing visiting York and Brunswick and host South Portland.

Tuesday, the Clippers took an even bigger step forward and finally rid themselves of the Greely albatross.

The Rangers took a 1-0 lead in the opening set, as senior Jane Grandchamp produced a kill, but the next five points went to Yarmouth, thanks to some strong service from Moran and a kill from Lukis. Greely crept back to 5-3, but Lukis had a kill and junior Marie LeBlanc followed with an ace. A block by junior Ceanne Lyon extended the lead to 9-4 and forced Greely coach Kelvin Hasch to call timeout.

It didn’t help, as Lukis had successive aces and Yarmouth added another point for a 12-4 lead. An ace and two more service points from senior Steffi Johnson pulled the Rangers within 12-7, but a block by freshman Maggie Murray and a kill from Moran made it 14-7. Greely got as close as 15-12, but the next five points went to the hosts, capped by successive aces from junior Skylar Bennett, including one which hung on the net before falling to the floor. After the Rangers got a point back on a kill from Grandchamp, the Clippers got a point, then Moran served up an ace to make it 22-13. Greely, behind the serving of senior Claire Davis, got the next three points, but Lukis ended the run with a kill. The visitors got three more points, capped by successive aces from Grandchamp, but a kill from Lukis put Yarmouth on the brink and on the next serve, the Rangers hit the ball out, giving the first set to the Clippers, 25-19.

Moran had five service points, including two aces, as well as four assists in that game, while Lukis produced four kills, two aces and five total service points. Skylar Bennett added five service points (including two kills).

Hasch felt that his team helped Yarmouth prevail.

“We gave them 12 points in the first set,” Hasch said. “Take those away and it’s a different result.”

The Clippers had confidence and they carried that into the second set.

A Lukis kill got things started and Yarmouth never trailed. After Moran served up an ace, Lukis tried twice to deliver a kill, but both were blocked. On the third try, Lukis was successful to extend the lead. The Rangers pulled within a point at 3-2, 4-3, 5-4, 6-5 and 7-6, but a Lukis kill and a pair of Moran aces opened it up to 10-6. Greely got the next two points, but the Clippers answered with two of their own, including a kill from LeBlanc. Yarmouth pushed its lead to 16-11 behind a block from Murray and after a Rangers’ point, the hosts got a kill from LeBlanc, an ace from Skylar Bennett, another point and another Bennett ace for a 20-12 lead. Greely drew within 20-14, but LeBlanc and Lukis had kills and Moran followed with an ace to make it 23-14. After successive Greely points, LeBlanc had a kill. The Rangers stayed alive on a kill from Grandchamp, but the Clippers closed out their 25-17 set victory on a kill from Kaitlyn Bennett.

No one on hand expected Greely to roll over in the third set, least of all the team on the other side of the net, and that’s exactly how it would play out.

The Rangers got a quick ace from junior Morgan Selby and grabbed a 2-0 lead. After Yarmouth drew even on a kill by Lyon, the next three points went to Greely. Lukis followed with a block and LeBlanc had successive aces to tie it, 5-5 and the Clippers tied it again, 6-6, but Greely took a 10-7 lead on a kill from Thurston. Kills from Kaitlyn Bennett and Murray brought Yarmouth back within a point, but kills from Thurston and junior Lily Adams made it 13-9 Rangers. The Clippers ran off three points in a row, capped by a kill from LeBlanc, but Greely responded and went up, 17-13. An ace from LeBlanc pulled Yarmouth within one and an ace by Lukis tied the score, 18-18. The Clippers then got the next point too to lead for the first time in the game, necessitating a Hasch timeout.

Out of the break, the Rangers pulled even on a service point and at 19-19, Yarmouth appeared to get a point to take the lead, but to Senecal’s chagrin, the point was overruled and Greely was on top. A block from freshman Mayzie Mulkern tied the score, but the Clippers hit the ball out, Rangers junior Madison Scott got a point on a block, Greely got another point and another Scott block made it 24-20, putting the visitors on the brink of extending the match.

It appeared they had when a shot was returned that Yarmouth couldn’t handle, but much to Hasch’s chagrin, it was ruled to have gone outside the antenna.

“That call was a big moment,” Senecal said. “That’s a tough one.”

With new life, the Clippers sent Kaitlyn Bennett to the service line and got a kill from Murray, another kill from Murray, then tied the score, 24-24, when Greely hit the ball into the net. Bennett then produced an ace, putting Yarmouth on the brink of victory.

“I was very nervous,” Bennett said. “I missed a lot of serves at the beginning of the game, so I wanted to get them in. Once I got the first one in, I got more confident. It felt like momentum was swinging to us. That got our energy up. It’s been overwhelming at times, but it’s been nice to have other underclassmen on the team. The older girls have been supportive.”

“Kaitlyn is a great server,” Moran said. “She’s dependable all around. We had to keep our heads up. We thought we lost (the set), then they changed the call and that gave us momentum.”

Hasch called his final timeout, but it didn’t produce the desired result, as at 7:13 p.m., after 15 years of trying, the Clippers finished off the Rangers as the visitors couldn’t get the ball over the net and Yarmouth had a 26-24 win in game three and a 3-0 match victory.

“Greely made us work really hard to win,” Moran said. “To do it in three sets is incredible. It’s emotional. I’m so happy. Playing that way with so much intensity for so long, I’m so proud of us. I was on JV (when they came back to beat us two years ago). That was crazy. We knew it wasn’t over.”

“We told the kids (Greely would) come out on fire in the third set and they did,” Senecal said. “I thought we were very fortunate. Kaitlyn in the biggest moment of her high school career so far, nailed five straight. That was very impressive.

“We didn’t really know what to expect. We knew they’d struggled in a few of their matches early, but they’re still Greely and they start seven seniors. They’ll be tough by the end of the year. They have good floor balance and they execute very well. They have a good setter and (senior) Coco (Petrone) digs up a lot of stuff in the back row.”

Moran was the team’s steady, veteran presence, finishing with 19 assists and 12 service points (including six aces).

“I trust all the hitters to get it over,” said Moran.

“Dominique was laying it in there very nicely tonight,” Senecal said.

Lukis was a revelation with 11 kills and seven service points, including three aces.

“Evelyn had an amazing night tonight,” Moran said.

LeBlanc had four kills and four aces.

Skylar Bennett finished with nine service points (including four aces).

Kaitlyn Bennett had five kills and six service points.

“This says the freshman have come a long way in a short period of time,” said Senecal. “You could see the moment was a lot for some of the freshmen, but they came together. Maggie Murray had moments where she struggled, then she had two big kills at the end when we needed them. Evelyn is very calm. She has a very calm demeanor. She hit over every block Greely put up. When we went to her, we got kills most of the time. Other kids came through when they needed to.”

Greely was led by five assists from Johnson, five service points and three kills from Selby, seven service points from Davis, four kills from Thurston and six service points from Petrone.

“(Yarmouth) played every ball and we didn’t play every ball,” Hasch said. “I’m happy with our fight. We just made a lot of mistakes.”

Long road ahead

Greely looks to bounce back when it goes to Gardiner Thursday, then hosts Gorham Tuesday of next week.

“I’m still trying to get them to play as a team,” Hasch said. “They’re playing as individuals. They need to play for each other. We have the talent.”

Yarmouth has another tough match awaiting it Thursday, when it goes to Cape Elizabeth, which rallied from two sets down Tuesday night to beat Biddeford in a five-set battle of unbeatens. That means the Clippers don’t have long to celebrate, but rest assured, they will savor this victory.

“I couldn’t be happier,” Moran said. “We’ve come so far so quickly since the beginning of the season. I think this gives us a big confidence boost that we can play with the top teams in the league.”

“Cape will be a huge match,” said Senecal. “They’ll be well-aware of what happened tonight. It will be a struggle for us, but hopefully we’ll get there.”

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

Yarmouth junior Marie LeBlanc goes up for a kill over Greely senior Rachel Thurston.

Yarmouth freshmen Maggie Murray (18) and Kaitlyn Bennett defend the net.

Greely junior Morgan Selby goes up for a kill.

Greely senior Olivia Murley goes up for a block.

Yarmouth freshman Maggie Murray (18) and junior Ceanne Lyon defend as Greely senior Sara Agren goes up for a shot.

Yarmouth freshman Evelyn Lukis goes up for one of her 11 kills.

Yarmouth freshman Kaitlyn Bennett goes up for a shot as Greely senior Sara Agren (10) and senior Jane Grandchamp defend.

Greely senior Coco Petrone handles a shot.

Greely junior Morgan Selby celebrates a point.

Yarmouth freshman Maggie Murray celebrates a point.

Previous Greely-Yarmouth results

2016
@ Greely 3 Yarmouth 0

2015
Greely 3 @ Yarmouth 2

2014
@ Greely 3 Yarmouth 1

2012
Greely 3 @ Yarmouth 0

2011
@ Greely 3 Yarmouth 0

2010
Greely 3 @ Yarmouth 0
@ Greely 3 Yarmouth 0
Class A quarterfinals
@ Greely 3 Yarmouth 1

2009
@ Greely 3 Yarmouth 0

2008
@ Greely 3 Yarmouth 0

2007
@ Greely 3 Yarmouth 0

2006
@ Greely 3 Yarmouth 0
Greely 3 @ Yarmouth 0

2005
Greely 3 @ Yarmouth 0
@ Greely 3 Yarmouth 0

2004
@ Greely 3 Yarmouth 0
@ Greely 3 Yarmouth 0
Greely 3 @ Yarmouth 1
State quarterfinals
@ Greely 3 Yarmouth 0

2003
@ Greely 3 Yarmouth 0
Greely 3 @ Yarmouth 1

2002
@ Greely 3 Yarmouth 0
Greely 3 @ Yarmouth 2

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