CUMBERLAND—If it’s hard enough going against the talented players who make up the Greely volleyball team, then it’s virtually impossible to beat the Rangers and the Ghosts of Greely Past.

The Biddeford Tigers discovered that to be true on a surreal Thursday evening in the Greely High School gymnasium in a match which featured palpitating action, a cameo appearance by a maintenance crew and most of all, a breathtaking comeback.

Biddeford held on to win the opening set, 25-21, then raced to a 9-0 lead in the second before Greely, the proudest program in the state, roared back. The Rangers eventually fell short, falling again by a 25-21 margin, but gained some confidence in the process as it turned the match in its favor.

The hosts stayed alive with a 25-12 victory in the third set, then rolled again in the fourth, 25-14, to set up a winner-take-all fifth.

Problem was, everyone had to wait awhile for that to happen.

That’s because a protective cage over a light in the gymnasium’s ceiling had to be repaired, and after a nearly 20-minute delay, the first-team-to-15-points fifth set was contested and was it ever worth the wait.

In a microcosm of the match, the Tigers led most of the way and enjoyed leads of 10-7 and 13-12, but Greely, with history and pride on its side, simply refused to lose.

The Rangers weren’t able to close it out easily, however.

Three different times, Greely had a chance to win a point to clinch the match, but on each occasion, Biddeford stayed alive.

The Rangers fought off one match point as well before finally, sophomore standout Kayley Cimino, who had a spectacular match, stepped to the service line and delivered the ace of her young life to give Greely a 19-17 victory and the instant classic of a match, 3-2.

The perennial powerhouse Rangers, who were somewhat unheralded entering the campaign, improved to 5-0 and handed the Tigers their first loss in five matches as what promises to be a memorable season is just warming up.

“I’m just so excited that we pulled it out,” said Greely coach Kelvin Hasch. “It shows Greely still has some heart if we can come back from 0-2. Biddeford’s a good team. They have some good talent. They’ll go places this year.”

Rivalry renewed

Biddeford’s program pre-dates Greely’s and while the Rangers have won the majority of the meetings over the years (see sidebar, below), the Tigers have made things interesting.

Greely’s first countable varsity match was a 3-0 win at Biddeford way back on Sept. 10, 2002. The Rangers won the first 20 meetings, but the Tigers got them twice in the 2010 regular season, then ended Greely’s seven-year title run with a 3-2 decision in the Class A Final. Two years ago, Biddeford swept the Rangers again, but in the state match, Greely turned the tables with a 3-1 triumph. Last fall, the Rangers won at home, 3-2, and at Biddeford, 3-0, to take a 25-5 all-time series lead.

So far this fall, both teams have remained strong.

Biddeford, which lost to eventual champion Falmouth in last year’s quarterfinals, opened the 2014 campaign with 3-0 wins over Cheverus, Gorham, Thornton Academy and South Portland.

Greely, which was ousted by Scarborough in last year’s semifinals, posted wins over Yarmouth (3-1), Windham (3-0), Cape Elizabeth (3-0) and Gorham (3-1).

Thursday, the lone regular season meeting between the powers this autumn went to the Rangers.

In a fashion no one on hand will soon forget.

The first set was back-and-forth with the hosts going up, 11-8, behind an ace from senior Lauren Weickert, but the Tigers rallied to take a 14-12 advantage, as a run was capped by senior Kayla Fournier’s ace. Greely retook the lead, 15-14, on an ace from junior Alex Tebbs, but with the score tied, 18-18, Biddeford went on top to stay and although the Rangers drew within 23-21, out of a timeout, the Tigers got the next two points, punctuated by a kill from senior Bri Collard, to get the jump.

Early in the second set, it appeared as if the match wouldn’t last much longer, as behind the pinpoint serving of Fournier, Biddeford rattled off the first nine points (with Fournier delivering five aces in the process). The Tigers appeared home free when junior Jocelyn Moody’s kill made it 23-15, but Greely came to life.

An ace from senior Emily Buchanan, a kill from Tebbs and another Buchanan ace drew the Rangers within just two, 23-21, but after Biddeford coach Ruth Shaw called timeout, the Tigers won the next crucial point, then closed out the set when Greely hit the ball into the net.

The Rangers (who have only lost five home matches in program history) were on the brink of being swept on their homecourt, something which had only happened twice before (Biddeford won in straight sets in 2010 and Scarborough achieved the feat last fall), but they felt they had momentum.

“We got a little frustrated in the second set and couldn’t pass,” Hasch said. “I told them, ‘You know how to play. You can play better than this.’ They got confident and they realized they could play. After the second game, I told them, ‘Hey, we’ve got the momentum right now. Let’s go get one.’

In game three, it was Greely starting strong.

The service of junior Hannah Butland lit a spark, as she had two aces and Cimino had a kill to open up a 6-0 lead. The Tigers got back within 8-5, but two Cimino aces and a Weickert kill made it 13-6. Biddeford got the next three points, but a 7-0 run, capped by a Buchanan ace, ended all doubt. Shaw called timeout, but it didn’t stem the tide, as the Rangers got two more points. A Tigers serve which sailed out of bounds ended the set as Greely prevailed, 25-12.

“We came out a little silent,” Tebbs said. “Our execution wasn’t quite right. It took us a little while to get into it.”

The Rangers were still down in the match, but in truth, had Biddeford on the ropes and kept the pressure on in the fourth set.

Greely again led almost the whole way, as a Cimino kill set the tone. An ace from senior libero Audrey Mann and an amazing Cimino save which led to a point gave the Rangers a 7-1 lead. The Tigers got as close as 9-5, but Greely opened it up again thanks to three Tebbs kills which made the score 15-8.

“Nobody could take care of Alex tonight,” Hasch said. “She had a great match.”

After Biddeford got a couple points, a Tebbs ace and a Weickert kill pushed the lead to 18-10. The Tigers got the next two points, but a Weickert kill opened it up again. With the score, 21-14, Weickert had a kill, Cimino delivered an ace and after another point, Cimino served up another ace to close it out, 25-14, and tie the match.

“We got one (set) and the girls realized they could do it and then they got another one,” Hasch said. “I didn’t know what to expect after that.”

The fun was only beginning.

At the end of that fourth set, an errant shot hit a cage which protects a light on the ceiling over the Biddeford end line. Part of the cage came loose and dangled over the court and with safety a concern, play was stopped until the Greely maintenance crew was able to get up there and repair it.

The Rangers, who had all the momentum, made the most of their nearly 20-minute downtime.

“We just tried to keep our intensity up as much as possible during that break,” Cimino said. “We warmed up in a circle. We didn’t want to get our energy down.”

“I didn’t let the girls sit down,” Hasch said. “I had them be active and move around on the court.”

Then, it was time to settle matters.

Every point in the fifth set would prove critical and there was little separation, as neither team led by more than three points.

The would change hands seven times and the score would be tied on a palpitating 10 occasions.

A kill from Tigers senior Samantha Daigle and another point put the visitors up, 2-0, but Tebbs had a kill, then, on the same point, Tebbs came up with a critical dig and a couple passes later, produced a kill to tie it, 2-2.

Biddeford went up, 4-2, but a service point got a point back for Greely. A kill from Moody made it 5-3 Tigers and they would go up, 6-4, but a kill from Tebbs, a Buchanan ace and a Tebbs kill put the Rangers on top for the first time in the fifth set, 7-6.

Then, it was the Tigers’ turn to go on a run, scoring four straight points, capped by a Moody ace and Hasch, sensing his team was on the ropes, called timeout.

It worked, as junior Hannah Butland had a kill to turn the tide. An ace from Weickert tied the score and a Tebbs kill gave Greely an 11-10 advantage.

It didn’t last, as the Rangers hit the ball into the net, hit the ball out, then committed a violation to give Biddeford a 13-11 lead.

A Tebbs kill stemmed the tide and Butland delivered an ace to tie the game again, 13-13.

When sophomore Molly Chapin, Greely’s secret weapon in the early going this autumn, came up with the biggest block of her young career, the Rangers found themselves one point away from victory and they appeared to get it when Daigle rose for a kill, but hit the ball out of bounds.

The official didn’t see it that way, however, and he ruled that Daigle’s shot deflected off a Greely player’s fingertip, retying the score, 14-14.

Undaunted, Tebbs produced a kill which brought the Rangers to the brink again, but a service fault retied the game, 15-15.

When Moody delivered a kill, Biddeford had a chance to finally end matters, but Cimino (barely) placed her kill in the corner (punctuating it with a jump for joy) and the game was tied again, 16-16.

“I was going for the corner, hoping it wouldn’t go out,” Cimino said. “It was going through my head (as I hit it) that it could be the match.”

“Kayley is just an all-around great player,” Hasch said. “She’s done a great job. She’s just awesome. Very, very competitive.”

A Mann ace gave the Rangers a chance to win, but out of a timeout, the Tigers stayed alive, courtesy a kill from Moody.

Biddeford then hit the ball out of bounds and for the fourth time, Greely had a chance to end matters.

And the fourth time would be the charm.

Cimino, fittingly, did the honors, as she stepped to the service line and blasted the ball over the net. A Tiger got her hand on the ball, but it bounced away and no one else could reach it before it hit the ground and at 8:07 p.m., more than two hours after the passion play began, the Rangers were finally able to erupt as one of the most memorable matches in a storied program’s triumphant history was at last in the books.

“I knew I just needed to get my serve in and if they got it back over, my team was behind me,” Cimino said. “It was extremely fun to play in this match. We were pumped. It’s one of our best games so far.”

“It was extremely exciting,” Tebbs said. “Our communication was what took us through. We got excited after every point. We screamed. It helped us out. I think it carried us.”

“We lost a little momentum (during the delay), but we stayed with them,” Hasch added. “Every time we had a timeout, I told them to find a little more heart and play smart and focused and it worked out tonight.”

Cimino stuffed the stat sheet with nine kills, seven aces, three assists and a block. Tebbs had a dozen kills and four aces. Weickert added eight kills and three aces, while Butland had 25 assists, four kills and three aces.

Tests upcoming

Unfortunately, the teams aren’t scheduled to square off again, but there’s a very good chance they could meet in the crucible of the playoffs.

That’s a long way off, however, and each squad has many hurdles to clear first.

Biddeford (now fourth in the closely contested Class A Heal Points standings) is back in action Tuesday when it hosts defending Class B champion Yarmouth. That match is followed by a visit from undefeated Mt. Desert Island, a trip to Cape Elizabeth and a home match versus Falmouth. The Tigers also go to Scarborough before the end of the regular season.

Greely (first in Class A) plays at South Portland Saturday and hosts Falmouth Tuesday. Matches at Scarborough, Falmouth and Cape Elizabeth also loom.

The Rangers are riding high right now, but they know there is still a lot of work to do.

“The coaches here are amazing,” Tebbs said. “They’ve helped us. We have to work on passing and get our defense down tight. We hope to keep it going.”

“Right now, we’re concentrating on getting the bench to the level we need it,” said Hasch. “We’re working on getting the bench to where it can give us an extra boost down the road.”

“Everyone works hard in practice,” Cimino said. “The new girls are learning the game quickly. Everyone is paying attention. Everyone just wants it.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Greely senior Emily Buchanan prepares to serve.

Greely junior Hannah Butland prepares to handle a serve.

Greely sophomore Molly Chapin goes one-on-one with Biddeford senior Samantha Daigle.

Greely sophomore Kayley Cimino shows her form at the net.

Greely senior libero Audrey Mann handles a shot.

Greely junior Alex Tebbs, who played a tremendous match, goes up for a kill.

Greely senior Lauren Weickert is the picture of concentration as she handles a Biddeford shot.

Greely (from left) senior Lauren Weickert, junior Hannah Butland and sophomore Kayley Cimino whoop it up after a triumphant point.

Previous Greely-Biddeford results

@ Greely 3 Biddeford 2
Greely 3 @ Biddeford 0

@ Biddeford 3 Greely 1
Biddeford 3 @ Greely 0
Class A Final
Greely 3 Biddeford 1

Greely 3 @ Biddeford 0
@ Greely 3 Biddeford 0

Biddeford 3 @ Greely 1
@ Biddeford 3 Greely 0
Class A semifinals
@ Biddeford 3 Greely 2

Greely 3 @ Biddeford 2
@ Greely 3 Biddeford 1

Greely 3 @ Biddeford 1
@ Greely 3 Biddeford 0
State semifinals
@ Greely 3 Biddeford 0

@ Greely 3 Biddeford 1
Greely 3 @ Biddeford 0
State semifinals
@ Greely 3 Biddeford 0

@ Greely 3 Biddeford 0
Greely 3 Biddeford 0 (neutral site)
Greely 3 @ Biddeford 0

@ Greely 3 Biddeford 0
Greely 3 @ Biddeford 1

@ Greely 3 Biddeford 0
Greely 3 @ Biddeford 0

Greely 3 @ Biddeford 0
@ Greely 3 Biddeford 0
State quarterfinals
@ Greely 3 Biddeford 0

Greely 3 @ Biddeford 0
@ Greely 3 Biddeford 0

Sidebar Elements

Greely senior Audrey Mann exults as she celebrates a point with her teammates during Thursday night’s thriller against Biddeford. The Rangers dug a two-sets-to-none hole, but some how, some way rallied back to prevail in five unforgettable games.

Mike Strout photos

More photos below.