YARMOUTH—While it lacked the drama and high stakes of their last meeting, the Cape Elizabeth and Yarmouth volleyball teams put on another show when they squared off in an early season showdown Monday evening.
The defending Class B state champion Clippers picked up where they left off last fall, taking the first set in impressive fashion, 25-15, rallying to win a closely contested second game, 25-23, then finishing off their 3-0 victory by holding on in the third set, 25-19.
Yarmouth got huge contributions from first-year sophomore setter Sophie Dickson and junior hitters Evelyn Lukis and Maggie Murray as it evened its record at 1-1 and dropped the Capers to 1-1 in the process.
“We knew what kind of team Cape is,” said Clippers coach Jim Senecal. “It never feels safe against them. They fight right to the last ball. They were excellent. They lost a lot of kids, but they have talent all over the floor.”
Last fall, Cape Elizabeth won the regular season meeting in straight sets, but in the rematch, in the Class B state final, Yarmouth won the first two sets and after the Capers rallied to win games three and four, the Clippers took the decisive fifth set, 15-11, to win the championship.
Yarmouth began its title defense with a hard-fought four-set loss at defending Class A champion Falmouth Friday, a loss the Clippers feel they benefited from.
“Falmouth was a rough match, but it was a learning process for us,” Murray said. “Losing made us better.”
“The sets in Falmouth were great,” Senecal said. “They were two-point games all the way through. It was a loss we kind of felt good about, to be honest. The kids were engaged and it’s what we needed to get going.”
Cape Elizabeth, meanwhile, started with a 3-0 win over Greely.
Monday, in front of a vocal crowd at Jack Stroud Gymnasium, the Clippers earned their first victory, but it didn’t come easily.
Murray set the tone with a kill on the game’s first point, after Dickson set her up. Lukis followed with a kill and a block, but the next two points went to the Capers. Yarmouth then ran off four in a row, highlighted by a Murray kill on a long point and an ace from Lukis, to take a 7-2 lead, but Cape Elizabeth answered, pulling even at 9-9 behind an ace from sophomore Abi Bisceglie and a kill from sophomore Madalyn Vaine.
Murray then delivered a kill to spark a 4-0 run that put the Clippers ahead to stay. A Lukis kill made it 16-10 and forced Capers coach Sarah Boeckel to call timeout. It helped momentarily, as the visitors got two straight points, but after a service fault gave a point back to the hosts, Yarmouth got a pair of blocks from senior Caeden Rogers on a point which ended with a Murray kill, an ace from junior Sadie Gallant, a kill from Rogers and a block from Rogers for a 21-12 lead. After Cape Elizabeth got a point back, Murray and Lukis had successive kills. After the teams traded points, the Capers got a kill from junior Alison Gerety, but a Cape Elizabeth service fault gave the Clippers a 25-15 first set victory.
In the first game, Murray had six kills, Lukis added three and Dickson impressed with seven assists and three service points.
“Our passes were really good,” said Dickson. “Evelyn and Maggie are amazing hitters. I know they’ll finish it off if I get them the ball.”
“Sophie brings energy,” Senecal said. “She gets to balls most setters don’t get to. She happens to be at the right place at the right time. She has good leadership skills.”
The second set was tight throughout and featured nine ties before Yarmouth surged late to pull it out.
A kill from senior Jaya McClure and an ace from senior Corina Page helped the Capers win the first three points. The Clippers answered with three in a row, but a kill from Bisceglie gave Cape Elizabeth the lead back. Murray tied it with a kill, but a kill from sophomore Annaliese Rudburg and an ace from junior Julia Torre put the Capers up, 6-4. Yarmouth would tie it again at 7-7, but a service fault sparked a five-point Cape Elizabeth run, which was capped by a McClure kill, for a 12-7 lead.
It didn’t last, as the Clippers got six of the next seven points, four of which came on Lukis kills, to tie it again, 13-13. Again, the Capers got the next point, but Yarmouth tied it again. A service fault put Cape Elizabeth back on top, but a Murray kill tied it, 15-15. Again, the Capers responded with a Gerety kill, another point and a Torre ace. Kills by Murray and Lukis sparked a three-point run to tie the score, 18-18, but after a Boeckel timeout, Cape Elizabeth got three straight points for a 21-18 lead.
The Capers weren’t able to close out the game and even the match, however, as after a service fault, Murray took over at the service line and consecutive aces produced a 22-21 lead, the Clippers’ first of the set.
“I think I was frustrated,” said Murray. “I wanted to do what I could and be more consistent and be there for my team. The coaches told me where to serve and I did my best.”
Cape Elizabeth got the next two points for a 23-22 lead, but a block from junior Kathryn Keaney tied it, an ace from Gallant gave Yarmouth the lead and when the Capers couldn’t return the ball, the Clippers had themselves a 25-23 win, a commanding two set advantage and plenty of momentum.
“The second set was a battle for us,” Senecal said. “You seem to have momentum swings where you can’t do anything right and you hope to shorten those. Then, someone makes a play and you’re OK. We were lucky and we got them at the end.”
“We should have taken that set,” Boeckel lamented. “That changed momentum. We made so many errors in the first game and we pulled it together, but it was just a couple mental errors.”
That momentum carried into the third game, where Yarmouth never trailed.
A pair of Lukis kills set the tone. Cape Elizabeth was even at 2-2, but a kill from Murray sparked a six-point run, which also featured an ace from junior Avery Dube and a block from Murray, to make it 8-2. After the Capers cut the deficit to 9-5 on a Torre kill, the Clippers stretched the lead back to six, 14-8, forcing Boeckel to call timeout.
Cape Elizabeth would rally and get as close to 18-15, forcing Senecal to call timeout, but Yarmouth responded behind a kill from Lukis and two more Murray aces to lead, 22-15. The Capers drew within 23-19, but Murray countered with a kill and junior Margaret McNeil wrapped up the 71-minute match with a block and the Clippers had game three, 25-19, and the match, 3-0.
“I think our hard work and serving helped,” Murray said. “I really like playing big matches. The crowd was amazing. I like playing tough teams because it allows us to get better.”
Dickson, who has replaced all-state graduated standout Dominique Moran at setter this fall, wound up with 23 assists and seven service points.
“It’s been really different because Dominique was my role model,” said Dickson. “When she went to college, it was tough, but (my teammates) have been great.”
“Sophie is an amazing setter,” said Murray. “She hustles everywhere. She gets to balls I think will drop on the floor. She’s stepped up and helped us throughout this whole journey. I’m glad to have her on the team.”
Murray had 15 kills and nine service points, including four aces.
Lukis added a dozen saves and six service points.
Gallant and McNeil each had six service points.
Cape Elizabeth was sparked by Page, who had 17 assists, and Torre, who was everywhere on the court and had countless digs and five service points.
“You can see that Julia will keep us in every point and every match,” Boeckel said. “Thank God we have her. She’s awesome.”
“(Torre) is an excellent player,” Senecal said. “She gets to everything and when she does, it’s a perfect pass.”
Bisceglie finished with six service points, Gerety had five kills, freshman Amy Rasco added five service points and Vaine had four kills.
“We battled,” Boeckel said. “We’re young. We’re still jelling.”
Til’ we meet again
The teams are guaranteed to meet once more, Oct. 21 in Cape Elizabeth in the regular season finale. A third showdown in the playoffs (possibly in the state match again) is a good bet.
Both squads have plenty of work to do in the meantime.
After going to Westbrook Wednesday, the Capers host Mt. Desert Island Friday and welcome Wells Saturday.
“Things are going great,” Boeckel said. “The kids come in and work hard every day and battle. Mentally, we have to get a little tougher and we have to stop making silly errors. I’m not even thinking about that (second Yarmouth) match because we have so many matches before that.
“Yarmouth is great and I think we’ll get better. I think the gap is going to close.”
Yarmouth will also be back in action Wednesday at home versus Brunswick, then goes to Greely for a playoff rematch Friday before hosting Washington Academy Saturday.
“I think we need to work on consistency,” said Murray. “We have our moments, but we need to get better at that. I think we can play a lot better than we did tonight.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.