Sunday, May 19, 2013
VOLLEYBALL STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS
WHERE: Husson University, Bangor
SCHEDULE: Class B, Washington Academy (13-2) vs. Calais (11-5), 5 p.m.
Class A, Biddeford (16-0) vs. Greely (14-2)OF NOTE:
Greely is the defending Class A champ and is playing for its ninth state title overall. The Rangers won seven straight from 2003-09. Biddeford won the 2010 title. The teams played twice in the regular season, both matches won by Biddeford, on Sept. 4 (3-1) and Sept. 19 (3-0). The Class B game is a rematch of 2010, won by Washington Academy in three sets. Calais won the 2009 state title. The teams played twice in the regular season, both won by top-ranked Washington, on Sept. 10 (3-0) and Sept. 26 (3-2).
Top-ranked and undefeated Biddeford High will play second-ranked and defending state champ Greely High of Cumberland for the Class A state championship at 7 p.m. Saturday at Husson University in Bangor.
The teams have been regarded as the two best in the state for the entire season. Biddeford is 16-0, Greely 14-2, both losses to the Tigers.
"It's going to be a great match," said Jon Roberts, whose Scarborough team lost twice to both teams this season. "I wouldn't venture to say who will win. But I would say it's going to be a great match."
Roberts, whose Red Storm lost in five sets to Greely in the semifinals Wednesday, said both teams have more than just great players.
"Biddeford just doesn't make mistakes," he said. "They're very well coached. They were real strong last year with young players. Now they're all seniors and the work they put in last year is paying off.
"Greely believes it's going to win. Greely just wins, just finds a way. They grow up in that system thinking they're going to win."
The Class B state final will be played at 5 p.m., featuring top-ranked Washington Academy (13-2) against No. 3 Calais (11-5).
Greely is making its 10th appearance in the last 11 state finals. The Rangers have won eight.
"We're excited to be playing Greely again," said Biddeford Coach Ruth Shaw. "The girls want to play the best. And we had close games with them this year, every one of them."
These are two teams playing their absolute best right now. The coaches -- Shaw at Biddeford and Kelvin Hasch at Greely -- have found the lineup rotations and positions that put their teams in the right position to win. Early on that was a struggle for both, especially the Rangers, who graduated many key players from last year's championship team.
"This team has really come together," said Hasch. "It's been a lot of hard work. And we've tried to bond together. We had a lot of new people early in the year, kids who played last year, kids who didn't play much, kids who weren't on the varsity and didn't know what it was all about, didn't know the pressure they were getting into."
The team turned, he said, "when the girls bought into the system, into the program. When they realized on any given night, teams were going to play above their level to try to beat us."
Seniors Kristen Atwood and Kate Ventre grew into their roles as leaders. Senior Haleigh Roach has been dominant at times and libero Lexi Foster has stabilized the back line.
At Biddeford, the Tigers have relied on the experience and talent of a large senior class, led by setter Mariah Hebert, outside hitter Katelyn Lebrux and middle hitter Autumn Dube. They have combined with some talented underclassmen to lift the Tigers to their second title game in three years. Biddeford won Class A in 2010.
"This is the closest team I've ever had," said Shaw. "We're like a family. The nine seniors have been together since grade school. And they provide great support for their other 'sisters.' They just don't let each other down."
While Biddeford hasn't lost this season, Shaw had to do a lot of tinkering to get this team where it is.
"When we played (Greely) early on, I didn't have my lineup set, I was just learning about my own team," she said. "I had to learn who excelled in certain situations and accentuate everyone's best effort."
That the championship games are being played in Bangor caused a stir among some southern Maine communities. But as Gerry Durgin, an associate director of the Maine Principals' Association, said, "Volleyball coaches have wanted to showcase their sport. And having both games back-to-back at the same site is the way to do it."
No one is sure what the crowds will look like, but Hasch said it doesn't matter.
"I think the people who do venture to Husson are going to see an awesome match," he said. "Probably the best in Maine this year."
Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: