BIDDEFORD — Once again, the Biddeford volleyball team came out of the gates blazing and jumped out to an early lead against a quality opponent on Wednesday night.

But once again the Tigers failed to capitalize on that early momentum, and it came back to bite them in the end.

After cruising to a 25-11 win in the first set against Falmouth, the Tigers lost a competitive second set 22-25 and then were outplayed by the Yachtsmen 15-25 in the third.

Biddeford rallied and looked likely to force a fifth and deciding set when it was up 17-13 in the fourth, but Falmouth fought back and won 12 of the final 17 points to put it away and win the match between two of the top competitors in Class A at Tiger Gym.

Biddeford (5-4) has now dropped four of its five matches since starting off 4-0. The Tigers have won the first set in three of those contests ”“ the others coming against Class A-leading Greely and Class B-leading Yarmouth ”“ only to let the lead slip away as the tide of momentum starts to turn in the other direction.

“I think we just get comfortable and we don’t play every point the same,” Biddeford assistant coach Chantelle Tourigny said. “The difference was, Falmouth played the same way when they were winning as when they were losing, and we change. And we can’t change if we’re going to go far.

“We got timid. You have to play to win, not to not lose, because that’s too stressful. Mentally we’re just not there yet, and we have to be if we’re going to peak at the right times. It’s frustrating.”

The defending Class A champion, Falmouth (7-2) too has been struggling for consistency, something that showed in the first set. Behind the strong serving of Bri Collard, including three aces, and three kills apiece from Jocelyn Moody and Kendra Cote, Biddeford opened up a 15-3 lead in the opening set and rolled to a 14-point win.

“We had to focus on the basics first,” Falmouth coach Gary Powers said. “I just told them to get the passion back, stay intense and focus on the serve. They ran off a lot of points on serves and against a team like this you can’t do that. They’re a good team and you can’t dig a hole, so we needed to get the momentum back and carry it into the second.”

The Yachtsmen did just that thanks to some inspired play from outside hitter Lydia Farmer, who totaled seven kills in the second set. Behind that and strong play from middle hitter Allyson Hickey, Falmouth shot out to an 18-12 lead, only to see Biddeford come back to even things at 18-18 thanks to three-straight kills by Cote and two more from Moody.

But with a two-set deficit staring them in the face, the Yachtsmen got a huge block from Leigh Bernardy, two kills from Farmer and won the set when the Tigers committed a hitting error on set point.

“They are very tall and they have great blocks,” said Tourigny, whose team was blocked nine times, five of them by Hickey. “We weren’t playing smart. We weren’t going around it, we weren’t going over it; we were just kind of hitting into it and then we’d lose momentum, because nothing feels better than a block.”

“That second set was the turning point. Against a strong team like this, you really don’t want to go down two games,” Powers said. “It’s not impossible, but you have to be perfect after that.”

Falmouth carried the momentum into the third, winning it easily behind five kills by Farmer and five more from Bernardy as the jumping ability of the Yachtsmen’s outside hitters started to take over, hitting around and at times through the Tigers’ block led by the 6-foot-2 Cote, who still compiled four blocks.

“We’re not used to seeing someone of her caliber,” Powers said of Cote, who also added 18 kills. “It took us a while to get into that and find out what we were doing. Once they got the rhythm they were fine, but (Cote) is a heck of a player.”

Biddeford was able to jump out to another edge in the fourth set, taking a 17-13 lead thanks to four kills from Moody, who compiled a match-high 21 kills. But Falmouth again was able to rally, tying things up at 19-19 and then winning the final three points on kills by Julia Treadwell and Farmer and an ace from Hickey to take the set 25-22.

In total, Farmer recorded 15 kills to lead a balanced attack for the Yachtsmen, while Bernardy added 10, Treadwell seven and Hickey five.

“We had all the momentum going into the fourth set, but Biddeford wasn’t going to back down,” Powers said. “We sort of got comfortable and let the intensity up and we just had to play hard but stay relaxed. As long as they stayed loose, they were fine and we started to gel.”

Biddeford, meanwhile, will look to regroup today as it heads to Kennebunk for a matchup with the 2-6 Rams before a trip to 7-2 Scarborough next Tuesday in a contest that will be crucial for playoff positioning, as well as for the Tigers’ confidence

“They come out and play great the first set, and they can do that every set if they realize they can. As soon as they do, they can be great,” Tourigny said. “I still don’t think this will define us. We’ll peak later in the season.”

Staff Writer Cameron Dunbar can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 323 or [email protected]

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