CAPE ELIZABETH—If this match had been held a month from now, deep in the postseason, it would go down as an all-time classic.

Instead, Monday night’s volleyball showdown between defending Class A champion Falmouth and last year’s Class B runner-up Cape Elizabeth will have to settle for being the match that sets the bar to date this autumn.

The Yachtsmen hadn’t been tested in weeks, but got pushed to the brink of their first defeat in a year by a Capers squad which rose to the occasion, but ultimately couldn’t finish the job.

A back-and-forth first set saw Falmouth score the final three points to prevail, 26-24.

Cape Elizabeth then rode its serving brilliance to a 25-17 victory in the second set, then never trailed in the third game, winning, 25-16, to put the Yachtsmen behind in a match for the first time this season.

Falmouth was down, 18-16, in game four, but finally roared to life behind the power of juniors Katie Phillips and Annika Hester to win, 25-19, setting up a winner-take-all, first-team-to-15-points fifth set.

There, the Yachtsmen completed their comeback, leading almost the whole way, and when senior Rose Riversmith won a point at the net, Falmouth had a 15-7 victory and an exhilarating 3-2 match triumph.

The Yachtsmen improved to 8-0 on the year, extended their match win streak to 20 and in the process, dropped the valiant Capers to 5-3.

“This could have turned out different,” said Falmouth coach Larry Nichols. “It was a tough match and we’re lucky to get out of here (with a win).”

Above the crowd

Falmouth dropped a closely contested three-set decision (14-25, 21-25, 31-33) decision at Cape Elizabeth last Sept. 18, but the Yachtsmen came into play Monday having not lost since, winning their final 12 matches en route to the Class A state title last season, then starting 2019 with seven more victories.

Falmouth started with a 3-1 home win over defending Class B champion Yarmouth, then blanked host Cheverus, visiting Bonny Eagle, host Deering, visiting Greely, host Portland and visiting Marshwood.

Cape Elizabeth, which dropped a five-set instant classic to Yarmouth in last year’s Class B state match, opened with a straight set home win over Greely. After a 3-0 loss at the Clippers, the Capers blanked visiting Mt. Desert Island and Wells and beat host Nokomis and Deering in straight sets. Last Tuesday, Cape Elizabeth lost at home to Scarborough in five games (letting a two set lead slip away), then they beat host Westbrook, 3-0.

Entering play Monday, Falmouth had won 10 of 16 all-time meetings (see sidebar, below).

This time around, the Yachtsmen prevailed again, but it certainly didn’t come easily.

Falmouth went up, 6-4, in the first set, but the next five points went to the Capers, as sophomore Abi Bisceglie, an exchange student from Italy, served up a pair of aces and promising freshman Amy Rasco had three kills. After Nichols called timeout, however, the Yachtsmen answered, scoring eight straight points, highlighted by two blocks and a kill from Riversmith. Later in the game, when Riversmith served up an ace, the lead was 19-14, but Cape Elizabeth rallied within 20-19 on a kill from sophomore Lily Dunton. A kill from Hester and successive Hester aces appeared to ice it for the visitors, but Rasco had a kill, Dunton had a kill, Hester hit the ball out, Dunton had another kill and Bisceglie served up an ace for a 24-23 Capers’ lead. Cape Elizabeth couldn’t get the final point it needed, however, as Phillips had a kill and a block and on set point, the Capers couldn’t return the ball and the first game went to Falmouth, 26-24.

Hester had six kills and two aces, Phillips added five assists and senior Gretchen Barney produced seven service points to help offset 10 saves from senior setter Corina Page, five kills from Rasco and 10 service points, including three aces, from Bisceglie.

The Yachtsmen appeared to have momentum when the second game began, but it would instead belong to Cape Elizabeth.

Falmouth got the first point, but never led again, as the Capers scored five straight, featuring a pair of kills from sophomore Madalyn Vaine. A kill from Hester pulled the Yachtsmen within 6-4, but Bisceglie’s serving sparked an eight-point run to make it 12-4. Falmouth crept back to 13-10 thanks to two kills and an ace from Hester, but the Yachtsmen had successive service faults and soon found themselves down, 17-11. Back came Falmouth, however, as Phillips had a kill and an ace, to cut the deficit to two, but another service fault turned momentum and Cape Elizabeth gradually pulled away and evened the match with a 25-17 second set victory, capped by an ace from Bisceglie.

Bisceglie had six service points and junior Aerin Manning added five to help negate four Hester kills and three service points and three assists from Phillips.

If the second game went well for the Capers, the third set was even better, as Cape Elizabeth never trailed, getting the first three points, capped by a Bisceglie kill. Falmouth didn’t manage successive points until it cut a 12-5 deficit to 12-7. Rasco countered with a kill and a kill from Bisceglie made it 16-9. After the Yachtsmen made it 16-11, Cape Elizabeth coach Sarah Boeckel called timeout and an ace from junior libero Julia Torre pushed the lead to seven. Successive Hester kills gave Falmouth life, but Dunton had a kill, the Capers got the next point, Bisceglie served up an ace and Dunton had a kill to essentially put it away. Kills from Rasco and Manning then ended it, 25-16.

Page had 11 assists and three service points and Dunton produced four kills.

Cape Elizabeth had victory in its sight and held a lead late into the fourth game, but the Yachtsmen refused to go quietly.

The fourth set was tied, 1-1, 2-2, 6-6 and 8-8 before an ace from junior Alison Gerety gave the Capers the lead. A pair of kills from Vaine made it 13-9, but Falmouth fought back to tie at 14-14. Kills from Dunton and Gerety and a fault helped Cape Elizabeth lead, 18-16, but that proved to be the Capers’ highwater mark.

After a Hester kill, junior Hillary Bouchard served up an ace. Hester had another kill to put the Yachtsmen on top and after another point, Boeckel called timeout.

It didn’t help, as Hester had a kill and Phillips followed suit to make it 22-18. A kill from Page gave Cape Elizabeth hope, but Hester had a kill, then Phillips produced two in a row to give Falmouth the 25-19 victory, forcing a decisive fifth game.

Phillips had seven assists, four kills and a pair of blocks in the fourth set, while Hester had seven kills, five service points and two blocks and Bouchard finished with seven assists and seven service points.

“We used the momentum we had and took it into the fifth set,” Hester said.

Both teams showed nerves early in the final game, as the Yachtsmen started by hitting the ball out, then the squads traded service faults, but a Hester kill tied it, then the Capers twice hit the ball out, forcing Boeckel to call timeout.

It didn’t help, as two Cape Elizabeth players collided and weren’t able to return the ball. Falmouth hit the ball into the net, but that was just a momentary blip, as senior Mia McHugh scored her lone point with a kill, Phillips had a block, Hester had successive kills and a Hester block made it 10-3, forcing Boeckel to use her final timeout.

Again, it didn’t have the desired effect, as Hester followed with a kill. Manning had a kill for the Capers, but a service fault put the Yachtsmen up, 12-4. After Falmouth couldn’t return a shot, Manning served an ace, but Hester had her final kill and after a long volley, Cape Elizabeth couldn’t return the ball, making it 14-6. A service fault kept the Capers alive, but at 8:35 p.m., after two palpitating hours, Falmouth put it away, as Riversmith blocked a shot at the net, ending the fifth set, 15-7, and the match, 3-2.

“It’s nice to take this one,” Hester said. “This is what we wanted. It’s been tough not playing top teams. We used teamwork and positivity to get through tonight. We kept our heads up and we knew we had to push through the adversity. It was fun.”

“Cape just plays great defense,” Nichols said. “It’s always so sound. They took every ball and made something happen. If you didn’t cover an area, they found it. If you thought you had an area covered, they found another. They just keep the ball in play. We had to step it up passing and we had to take advantage of opportunities to be aggressive. We had to take better care of the ball.”

Hester led the way with 26 kills and 12 service points.

“Cape’s passing and defense is outstanding, so it’s hard to put it down (kill it), especially against Julia (Torre),” Hester said. “They have great passers and I had to keep going and go for a different spot and hope for the best.’

Phillips had 17 assists, nine kills and five blocks, Riversmith added seven blocks and five kills and Bouchard served up 13 service points and also had 23 assists.

“When you haven’t been pushed and all of a sudden, you are, someone has to take over,” Nichols said. “It can’t always be Annika. What’s good about this win, others stepped up. Rose ended it with a block. Katie did a little of everything, Hillary was great with her serving.”

So close

Cape Elizabeth was paced by Page’s 30 assists and eight service points and Bisceglie’s 21 service points. Rasco had eight kills, Torre, who excelled on the defensive side, spoiling countless Hester kill attempts, finished with eight service points, Manning had seven service points and Dunton added 10 kills.

“We’re always scrappy,” Boeckel said. “We always play good defense. We dig and dig and fight for points. Corina is just keeping us in so many points. She’s playing so well. We didn’t serve that well, but Abi has been a godsend for us. She’s been so consistent. Amy Rasco is a freshman out there and she played well.

“That’s the second statement we’ve made without getting a win. We just got tight at a really bad time. We play to win, not to lose, but we played not to lose in the fifth game.

“We’ve had opportunities. We get it in our sights, but we make silly mistakes. That’s youth. We have one senior out there. Tonight and Scarborough were tough losses. We had those matches, but they’re Class A teams and they’re really good learning experiences.”

Lofty goals

Cape Elizabeth (now fourth in the Class B Heal Points standings) hosts York Thursday. Trips to Biddeford, Gorham and Greely also remain, as does a regular season-ending home match versus Yarmouth Oct. 21.

“We know we can compete with and beat anybody,” Boeckel said. “We have to keep that belief.”

Falmouth (now first in Class A) is in the midst of a brutal week, as it goes to Biddeford for a playoff rematch Tuesday, then travels to Scarborough Thursday. After hosting Brunswick and Gorham, the Yachtsmen go to Windham, then close at home versus Thornton Academy Oct. 17.

“Going undefeated doesn’t really matter,” Hester said. “We just like to play well and have fun. I think we’ve got to stay humble. We just need to stay calm and have fun. Personally, I like being the underdog like last year. I try to keep that mentality.”

“We’re still a work in progress,” Nichols said. “We need to adjust in some areas. Tonight was great for the kids to see because when you don’t do your job (bad) things happen. These matches are great because there are no excuses. You play well or you don’t.”

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

Previous Cape Elizabeth-Falmouth results

2018
@ Cape Elizabeth 3 Falmouth 0
@ Falmouth 3 Cape Elizabeth 1

2017
Cape Elizabeth 3 @ Falmouth 1
Class B state match
Cape Elizabeth 3 Falmouth 0

2016
@ Falmouth 3 Cape Elizabeth 0

2015
Cape Elizabeth 3 @ Falmouth 1
@ Cape Elizabeth 3 Falmouth 0

2014
@ Falmouth 3 Cape Elizabeth 0
Class A state match
Cape Elizabeth 3 Falmouth 2

2012
Falmouth 3 @ Cape Elizabeth 0

2011
Falmouth 3 @ Cape Elizabeth 0

2010
Falmouth 3 @ Cape Elizabeth 0

2009
@ Falmouth 3 Cape Elizabeth 0

2008
@ Falmouth 3 Cape Elizabeth 0

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