Early in the season, Kelvin Hasch wasn’t quite sure what to expect from his Greely High volleyball team. The Rangers, who have the state’s best program, had some young, untested players stepping into key roles, and Greely lost twice in September — both times to top-ranked Biddeford.
The players, Hasch said at the time, needed to mature.
Well, the Rangers certainly did, winning their second consecutive Class A state championship Saturday night — and ninth in 10 years — by beating previously undefeated Biddeford in four sets, 25-17, 22-25, 25-16, 25-7.
“I think they grew up at the right time,” said Hasch after his team’s 11th consecutive win. “I think this just speaks highly of our program. We work hard, inside the gym every single day, for two hours. They work just as hard every day as they did tonight.”
The Rangers also had an emotional edge. Longtime assistant coach Bruce Churchill died in July after a five-year battle with ALS. The players dedicated themselves to winning another championship in his memory.
“It was always in the back of my mind, ‘If Church was here, what would he say?’ ” said Katie Ventre, one of five Greely seniors. “He would say, ‘Keep your head in the game.’
“And so, the entire time we felt that he was watching us.”
BIDDEFORD, MEANWHILE, suffered a huge emotional letdown when senior setter Mariah Hebert was injured in the second set. She and a teammate collided while chasing down a ball, which bounced up and hit her in the face. She then landed face-first on the floor and suffered a concussion.
Ruth Shaw, Biddeford’s coach, said Hebert was checked out at Southern Maine Medical Center in Biddeford when the team returned home. She is scheduled to have a follow-up exam Monday.
“She’s going to be fine,” said Shaw.
The Tigers, who were undefeated going into the championship match, were not the same without her. While they went on to win the second set, they were unable to overcome Hebert’s absence and replace her abililty to set up other players.
“It was tough,” said Shaw. “But that’s the way it is sometimes. The girls should be proud of what they accomplished this year.”
While Hebert was being attended to by the Tigers’ trainer, several Biddeford players had tears in their eyes. And it wasn’t just them. Greely’s players were affected as well.
“It was difficult for us because many of the girls are very good friends,” said Hasch. “It was tough for us as well.
“I hope she recovers fully.”
NICE TOUCH by Hasch in the fourth — and decisive — set. With Greely leading 8-3, Hasch called on senior reserve Delany Nolin to step in and serve for Kristen Atwood. All she did was serve up 11 consecutive points.
“I had walked down the bench and asked the girls, ‘Who can serve?’ ” said Hasch. “Delany said, ‘I can do it.’ So I put her in. It’s her last game, I was glad she stepped up like she did.”
ONE OF THE BIG reasons why Cape Elizabeth won the Class B boys’ state championship Saturday in Belfast was the emergence of junior Will Britton, who spent the previous three autumns pursuing a different activity — skateboarding.
“I just stopped running in seventh grade,” said Britton, who placed 21st overall, and third on his team. “I don’t know why.”
What brought Britton back was a mile training run during practice with the Cape Elizabeth tennis team last spring. Circling the track, he had something of an epiphany.
“I really like running,” he said about his moment of inspiration. “I want to do this again.”
Britton covered the 5-kilometer course at Troy Howard Middle School in 17 minutes, 42 seconds. Fellow juniors Liam Simpson (16:55) and Peter Doane (17:04), sophomore Kyle Kennedy (17:46) and freshman Justin Guerette (17:52) all expect to return for a run at another title.
“This was Will’s first state meet and he came through for us,” said Cape Elizabeth Coach Derek Veilleux. “Having him on the team this year was obviously a big boost.”
PORTLAND’S RUNNING back tandem of Justin Zukowski and Nick Volger kept the Bulldogs moving Saturday in their 35-21 win over Windham in a Western Class A quarterfinal, with Zukowski gaining 166 yards and Nick Volger 87. Both were appreciative of their blockers.
“Put the (credit) on the line,” Zukowski said.
“Got to give it up to the line. They played great,” Volger said.
That line consisted of center Luigi Grimaldi, guards Tate Gale and Jacob Dutton, tackles Dominic Dimillo and Kyle Reichert and tight end Casey Mahoney.
LITTLE THINGS win games, and Portland receiver Joe Nielsen took care of those. When Volger reversed field for an improbable 15-yard gain that kept the Bulldogs’ go-ahead drive alive, it was the 155-pound Nielsen who cleared the way with his blocking of Windham’s cornerback.
On Portland’s next touchdown drive, it was Nielsen who pounced on a teammate’s fumble to keep the Bulldogs in possession.
MARSHWOOD’S LONE football loss this season wasn’t a nail-biter. On Sept. 28, Wells scored four plays into the game and never looked back in a 36-6 romp at Wells.
The rematch comes this weekend when top-seeded Marshwood (8-1) plays host to the No. 5 Warriors (7-2) in a Western Class B semifinal.
“Our whole team was down,” said senior running back Nick Janes. “I just don’t think we were mentally prepared. This time, we’ll be really prepared. We want to get some revenge.”
Since the loss to Wells, Marshwood has given up a total of 39 points in its last four games.
CAPE ELIZABETH’S season could be summed up by its 27-7 playoff loss to Marshwood. The Capers (3-6) played well, leading 7-0 at halftime, but just didn’t have enough.
Attrition played a role and injuries ate away at an already-small roster. That had Cape Elizabeth looking for a fullback during Friday’s game.
Backup fullback Zach Leconte dislocated his elbow in practice during the week, and starter Nick Moulton left in the first quarter with a leg injury.
“We didn’t have another fullback,” said Coach Aaron Filieo, who ended up putting sophomore guard Nate Weare in the backfield — which explains why a player wearing No. 65 was running the ball.
“We had thrown him in at fullback in a JV game and he ran hard,” Filieo said.
The emergency substitution worked reasonably well, as Weare gained 79 yards on 19 carries.
SCARBOROUGH QUARTERBACK Dillon Russo has shown he’s a threat running or passing. On Friday night in the Western Class A quarterfinals against Sanford in a 42-16 win, Russo passed for five touchdowns and 284 yards. He completed 14 of 23 passes.
With the score 14-10 late in the third quarter and the Scarborough offense slowed by penalities, Russo ran 38 yards to get the ball deep into Sanford territory. Moments later, the Red Storm had a 21-10 lead, as Russo passed to Greg Viola for a 19-yard touchdown. Russo lofted the ball to the corner of the end zone and Viola caught it in stride.
Viola and Chris Cyr each caught two touchdown passes. Dan LeClair caught Russo’s first scoring pass, a 5-yarder with 3:02 left in the first quarter.
Early in the fourth quarter, Russo and Viola teamed up on a 61-yard scoring strike. Viola, a senior who is playing at the varsity level for the first time this season, caught seven passes for 155 yards.
The No. 3 Red Storm (7-2) play at No. 2 Thornton Academy (8-1) on Saturday.
WHEN THE GORHAM and Scarborough boys last met on the soccer field, they played to a 0-0 tie on Sept. 8.
“Right at the beginning of the season,” Rams Coach Tim King said. “(There’s been a) lot of change since then.”
What hasn’t happened this season is a defeat for either team. That will change Wednesday when top-seeded Gorham (14-0-2) plays host to the No. 2 Red Storm (14-0-2) in the Western Class A championship game.
“We look forward to it. They’re a great program and we’d like a shot at them,” King said. “It will be a good battle.”
– Staff Writers Mike Lowe, Glenn Jordan, Kevin Thomas and Tom Chard contributed to this report