PORTLAND — Scarborough dominated the start and the finish of the Class A volleyball state championship match to beat South Portland in four sets Friday night at Deering High and win its second state title in three years.

Scarborough, the No. 2 seed, won the first two sets in convincing style, 25-19 and 25-17. Then, after dropping the third set, 25-16, the Red Storm were led in the fourth set by the power hitting of senior Natalie Simonton and sophomore Asia Mattress as they closed out the match, 25-12.

“Asia’s usual play is with a lot of emotion. She’s having fun and she’s smiling,” said Scarborough Coach John Roberts. “Tonight, she wasn’t smiling. She was all business. She looked like she had a job to do.”

Simonton said that after fifth-seeded South Portland (10-7) controlled the third set, the Red Storm simply pushed that set aside and refocused on their strong passing and powerful hitting.

“I think in the third (set) we lost focus,” said Simonton, who also played on the 2015 championship team. “But at the break we focused on what we do well – passing, setting and hitting hard. They had some big blocks in the third that was a little intimidating. As a group, in the fourth, we came out fearless. We took big swings. We didn’t worry if the set wasn’t good. We focused on playing smart.”

Roberts said he was most proud of the way the team shook off the third set and didn’t get discouraged by mistakes or lost points.

“This was more meaningful that they had to work through it,” Roberts said. “It’s happened with other teams during the season, the team’s gotten down. But they know they can do it. There is a lot of pressure, a lot of expectation. We compete (most) years here for the state title. This year, it was about the kids. They hadn’t played a lot of minutes together (before this year). There was a lot of teaching.”

Scarborough (15-2) has played in four state finals in the last five years. The Red Storm lost to Greely in the 2016 final.

In the first set, Scarborough was in front from the first point, opening a lead as big as eight points with the help of blocks and well-timed dropped shots by Mattress. After a series of South Portland mistakes, Scarborough closed out the set.

The second set was more of the same. South Portland jumped out to a 3-1 lead, but a kill and a block by Mattress, a 6-foot sophomore, made it 3-3. The Red Storm eventually scored nine straight points for a 10-3 lead. Mattress had three kills and a block in the set, and Simonton recorded two aces.

South Portland stayed alive in the third set, however, storming out to a 10-4 lead as they forced several Scarborough mistakes. Katie Whitmore served three of the winning points, and Mawhinney had back-to-back kills to make it 12-5. Grace Rende added a huge block, and another Mawhinney kill increased the margin to 17-8.

Despite two big blocks by Mattress, the Red Riots maintained their lead and forced a fourth set.

Scarborough was in complete control in that fourth set, however. The Red Storm jumped out to a 5-0 lead with senior Ivy DiBiase serving and quickly stretched it to 12-4 with well-placed shots that forced South Portland errors.

Kills by Asia Mattress and Simonton brought Scarborough to match point, and the Red Storm soon finished it off.

South Portland reached its first state final, in only its fifth varsity season, by upsetting No. 1 Deering in the semifinals, but the Red Riots couldn’t quite pull off another upset.

“We got a little too tired in the fourth,” Mawhinney said. “Kaleisha (Towle) was incredible – she didn’t give up. That third set was the best we’ve played this season. In that set, we just clicked.”

Roberts, whose swept South Portland in their regular-season match, said the third set turned the match into a battle worthy of a state final.

“That’s really cool they fought back,” Roberts said. “They gave it a fight.”

Deirdre Fleming can be reached at 791-6452 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: FlemingPPH

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