Cape Elizabeth captured their first gold volleyball Saturday morning in Biddeford, coming from behind – two sets behind, in fact – to dethrone reigning State Champions Falmouth. Monica Dell’Aquila and Maddie Bowe captained a small core of seniors and a sizable contingent of juniors to the 3-2 win, a thriller for spectators.

Capers fans are accustomed to real heart-pounders by now, though. The team is evidently a bunch of adrenaline junkies, having made a habit of fighting back from deep deficits in recent weeks. The No. 5 seed, Cape dropped the first two sets against both Scarborough, ranked fourth (11-3), in the quarterfinals and Greely, ranked first (13-2), in the semis. Both times, they doggedly clawed back for the astounding W.

“The road that we took to get here is the hardest road you could take,” Cape head coach Sarah Boeckel said. “We had to beat Scarborough in Scarborough, we had to beat Greely, the No. 1 seed, at Greely, and then we had to beat the defending champions here. You can’t script it better.”

Junior Tess Haller was modest after the match, despite her monster performance at the net.

“I don’t know – my teammates definitely help me,” she said. “It’s just, we all had a fire in our bellies, we wanted this so bad. I’m just trying to help out my team. We all do that for each other.”

Their grit advanced them to Saturday’s final, but when Falmouth captured the first and second sets – by 25-20 and 25-18 margins, respectively – they surely had to wonder, as did their half of the bleachers, if they had another miracle in them.

They showed the spark of determination, its heralding hints, early in the third set. After giving up the first two points to the Yachtsmen, they seemed to find their calm center, scoring eight unanswered points to grab a big, invigorating lead – a lead they guarded, even incrementally added to, as the set unfurled. Soon, they stood on top 20-10.

Falmouth, though, surged back hugely. The Yachtsmen tallied eight unanswered of their own to steal the momentum, to narrow the gap and rattle the Capers. More than ever, Cape needed to let their proximity to defeat drive them, to sharpen them and save them – and they did, fighting through to win the set 25-22.

The fourth set played out more equally, though the Capers did trail through the first half – by a point or two, occasionally three, and even, briefly, four. But again they chipped away at their shortfall, eventually tying the score at 12-12 and then building a substantial buffer, a lead that stretched all the way to six at one point, before slimming to three for the 25-22 win.

Two sets to two.

“It’s what we’ve been doing all season,” said Boeckel. “We lost…12 matches ago to Falmouth, and this light bulb just went off in us. We knew we were the better team, we knew we were mentally tough, we knew that the matches are never over till that last ball drops.

“Frankly, we’re getting used going down two-love and coming back. We don’t like to win easily anymore. We want to make sure everyone gets their money’s worth,” Boeckel added, chuckling.

“We’ve done this before,” Haller said. “We always end up getting down in our first games, then we really get it in our heads that we’re a team that can play with other teams, and we want it so bad. We get that fire and know that we can do it; we play smart and do good things.”

At the start of the tie-break, the outcome looked as predictable as a coin flip. Neither team seemed more in control, seemed to possess more momentum: both kept the ball alive on some spectacular saves, jammed home some blistering points, and even made the occasional costly error.

But in the course of 23 volleys, a clear champion did emerge. Cape cleanly won the tie-break, and the crown, 15-8.

“I’ve always said, one through 14, we wouldn’t be successful without all of us, regardless of if you’re on the court or not,” said Boeckel. “But to put Maggie Dadmun, as a freshman, out there in the State Finals and have her run a court the way she did is amazing.”

Boeckel also heaped praise on her other players: “Tess Haller, No. 17, just fights and fights and fights and fights. Maddie Bowe, she might not get a ton of kills, but she is in every single point, and you want her on your court at all times. Monica Dell’Aquila, this was her senior year – I mean, I couldn’t pick. Anybody out there. There’s six on a court, and we need all six to win.”

“We had to work so hard to get here,” Haller said. “But we’re here, so why not win it all?”

Freshman setter Maggie Dadmun pops the ball upward for a teammate to smash.Monika Scheindel (12) and Maggie Dadmun race to keep a ball alive and inbounds.Katie Connelly wallops a ball over the net.Tess Haller scored numerous points for the Capers, and stuffed a number of Falmouth shots back at them.Cape’s Monika Scheindel vies at the net with Yachtsman Leigh Bernardy.Capers captain Maddie Bowe fires the ball at a Falmouth defender.The ecstatic Capers huddle round their gold ball after coming from behind to best Falmouth 3-2.Cape flashes the traditional No. 1 signs Saturday morning.

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