YARMOUTH—Be aggressive and stay aggressive.

That was the recipe for Yarmouth’s success Saturday afternoon in a compelling home showdown against rival Cape Elizabeth in a possible volleyball state match preview.

The undefeated Clippers certainly came out on fire, winning the first set, 25-13, as standout senior setter Sophie Dickson served and set her team into the lead, getting help from seniors Elena Miller and Corrine Rivera.

In the second game, Yarmouth never trailed and while the Capers drew within a point late, the Clippers pulled out a 25-22 victory, as Dickson had nine more assists and sophomore hitter Annie Vinnakota added four kills, to take command on the match.

Yarmouth then had three match points in a palpitating, marathon third set, but Cape Elizabeth refused to call it a day and when junior Maddy Simopoulos registered a kill, the Capers had a 30-28 win, as senior captain Annaliese Rudberg had seven kills and senior captain Maeve McQueeny produced nine assists.

Just when it seemed Cape Elizabeth had the momentum, the Clippers dug deep, went back on the attack and captured the fourth game with surprising ease, as Miller stepped to the service line with the score 13-9 and never left, finishing the Capers off by herself and Yarmouth took game four, 25-9, and the match, 3-1.

Dickson finished with a whopping 29 assists as Yarmouth improved to 12-0 on the season, made it 28 straight victories overall and in the process, dropped Cape Elizabeth to 9-4.

“I’m proud of my kids,” said Clippers coach Jim Senecal. “This was a tough one and we knew it would be. We played great. We did what Yarmouth does. This year, we just get to balls that no one else does.”

Act II

After winning the Class B state title in 2017, Cape Elizabeth hoped for a repeat the following season, but lost to Yarmouth in a five-set thriller. The teams played again in 2019 and the Clippers repeated, surprisingly in just three games. After missing out on the 2020 season due to the pandemic, the teams are clearly on a playoff collision course again and both have enjoyed some memorable victories this fall.

The Capers started by beating visiting Gray-New Gloucester in straight sets and won at Greely, 3-1, before falling at home to Yarmouth, 3-1. Cape Elizabeth ended host Falmouth’s 31-match win streak (3-0), before falling in an exhausting five-set home match to Scarborough. The Capers then beat visiting Wells and host York and Westbrook by 3-0 scores. After falling in straight-sets at Biddeford, Cape Elizabeth enjoyed a 3-0 home win over Falmouth (coach Sarah Boeckel’s 100th victory with the program) and held off host Gorham in five-sets and visiting Greely in four-games.

Yarmouth opened with a four-set win at Cape Elizabeth, then downed visiting Greely, host Gray-New Gloucester, visiting South Portland and host Cheverus in three-games. After a stirring four-set home win over Class A powerhouse Scarborough, the Clippers downed host Greely (3-1) and swept visiting Wells, Falmouth and York before blanking host York Friday.

The Clippers’ 3-1 victory Sept. 9 was their fifth straight over the Capers.

Saturday, Cape Elizabeth looked to end that skid and had its moments, but ultimately, Yarmouth wouldn’t be denied.

The Clippers shot out of the gate, going up by scores of 4-0 and 5-1 before Cape Elizabeth settled in and tied it, 5-5, on a kill from Rudberg. But that’s as good as it would get for the Capers in the first two sets, as Yarmouth went on top to stay on a Dickson kill, then gradually opened it up behind a solid team effort, with some help from Cape Elizabeth miscues (including three service faults). An 8-7 lead quickly turned into 15-8 on a block from junior Dorcas Bolese, then 21-12 before the Capers got a point back on a block from junior Madalynn Vaine. Miller countered with a pair of kills, then Rivera had consecutive aces to close out the 25-13 victory.

Cape Elizabeth would perform better in the second set, but continued to play from behind and dug an even deeper hole.

Again, the Clippers started fast on an ace from Dickson, a kill from senior Piper Priddy and a win on a long point for a 6-1 lead. The Capers drew within 7-4, but kills from senior Tristen Rogers and Miller made it 10-4. Cape Elizabeth got the next three points, on a kill from junior Cayden Royall, an ace from Royall and a block from Simopoulos, but kills from Rogers and Vinnakota and an ace from senior Allie McClafferty put Yarmouth up, 14-9. The Capers then crept within 16-14 on a kill from Vaine, but a kill from Miller and a block from Priddy made it 20-15.

After Boeckel called timeout, Cape Elizabeth responded and rattled off four straight points to make it interesting, capped by an ace from Vaine, to cut the deficit to 20-19, but the Capers barely hit the ball out on consecutive points. A kill from Miller made it 23-20 and a kill from Vinnakota pushed the lead to 24-21, but Rudberg answered with a kill to keep the set alive. Cape Elizabeth then couldn’t return the ball and Yarmouth took the game, 25-22, and had a 2-0 lead in the match.

A 34-minute third set then ensued, where the Clippers appeared primed to close out the match, but the never-say-die Capers made play after play after play to keep it going.

When Cape Elizabeth got the first point of the game, it had the lead for the first time, but Yarmouth went up, 6-2. The Capers roared back with five straight points, including a pair of aces from Vaine, and eventually took a 12-9 lead on a kill from junior captain Amy Rasco. The ebb-and-flow continued as the Clippers won seven of the next eight points, highlighted by three kills from Vinnakota, for a 15-13 advantage. The score was then tied, 15-15, 16-16, 18-18 and 19-19 before a block from Bolese put Yarmouth ahead. The Clippers tried to pull away and end it, but even though they led by two at 22-20 and 23-21, Cape Elizabeth wouldn’t buckle, drawing even at 23-23, forcing a Senecal timeout.

The fun was just beginning.

The Capers then missed on a serve to put Yarmouth on the brink of victory, but the Clippers hit the ball out and Vaine had a block to put Cape Elizabeth ahead, 25-24. Yarmouth stayed alive on a kill from Rogers, then set up a second match point after the Capers couldn’t return a ball that hit off the ceiling, but Rudberg saved the day with a kill. A Miller kill gave the Clippers match point again, but Rasco dove to somehow keep the ball alive, leading to the tying point, then a Rudberg kill put Cape Elizabeth on the brink of victory. A service fault tied it again, but after Yarmouth couldn’t get the ball over after a long rally, a kill from Simopoulos gave the Capers a 30-28 win and forced a fourth set.

“These girls will always fight,” Boeckel said.

Generally, when a team wins a dramatic, marathon game like that, it has the momentum going forward, but Yarmouth decided enough was enough and won the fourth set in decisive fashion, thanks in part to some Cape Elizabeth misfortune.

When the Capers won the first two points of the fourth game, then went up, 5-1, on a kill from junior Madison Thornton, it appeared they might be on their way to really making things interesting, but they would score only four more points in the match. The Clippers answered with five straight points for the lead, then, after Cape Elizabeth pulled even at 6-6, a Capers’ service fault put Yarmouth ahead to stay. Miller added a kill, Bolese had a block and after another point and a Boeckel timeout that went for naught, Miller had another kill and another point made it 12-7. A miss on a serve ended the 11-1 run, then Simopoulos pulled Cape Elizabeth within 12-8 with a kill, but on the play, she landed awkwardly, was injured and had to leave the match (senior Anastasio Chepurko was also injured pregame).

“Injuries didn’t help us today,” Boeckel lamented.

“I feel bad,” Senecal said. “I know they had a couple kids get hurt. I hope they’re OK.”

After play resumed, a block from Royall pulled the Capers even closer at 12-9, but they wouldn’t register another point.

A fault turned the tide, then Miller went to the service line and after Yarmouth got the next point, Miller had an ace, Bolese had a kill, then Vinnakota added another kill for a 17-9 lead, forcing Boeckel to call timeout.

It didn’t help, as Vinnakota had a kill and Miller served up an ace.

“I just did my job of putting the ball into play and my team did great and kept me on the service line,” Miller said. “We just wanted to stay with it. We knew (Cape) could go on a run because they’re a great team.”

After two more points, Vinnakota added a kill for a 22-9 lead.

“Things just snowballed and we were worried about (Maddy),” Boeckel said.

When Cape Elizabeth hit the ball out on the next two points, the stage was set and Miller served the ball over one final time and the Capers hit it into the net to end it, 25-9, and give the Clippers the victory, 3-1.

“That third set was intense and coming off of it, our mindset was to be aggressive because the aggressive team was the one winning the point,” Miller said. “We couldn’t play it safe. You want to play it safe against a good team like Cape, but being aggressive wins.”

“We were all surprised (to have that lead), but we got momentum and we kept it going,” Dickson said. “Elena got all her serves in and that was key to that run. We usually have momentum in the first two sets. We didn’t have it in the bag in the third set and we had to just keep momentum going. Our serving and passing were great. Our offense was off in the third set, but we came back strong in the fourth set. We’re known for our defense. After we graduated our tall players, people thought we weren’t going to be great, but our defense has saved us this season.”

“We served really well today,” added Senecal. “We got most of our serves in. We had some moments where we lacked aggressiveness. The team that was using their power was the team that got the points. It went back-and-forth. That third set was great and we played phenomenal in that fourth set. Elena got aggressive, Annie got aggressive and we were able to put it away.”

Dickson not only had 29 assists and 10 service points, she regularly hit the floor to keep play alive and served as a beacon of calm during a frenetic match.

“Sophie’s awesome,” Miller said. “She always has your back. You know if you mess up with her around the play’s not over.”

“Sophie Dickson does it like no kid I’ve ever seen,” Senecal said. “It’s more than just what she does setting. She leads our team in digs. We try to avoid that, but she can’t help herself. She gets to every ball.”

Miller finished with 13 kills and 14 service points and Vinnakota added a dozen kills with eight service points.

“Elena does a great job,” said Dickson. “I try to get the ball to her when I can. Annie has a huge vertical (leap). She can really get up there.”

Rogers had 10 service points, Bolese six blocks, Rivera five aces, Priddy five service points and McClafferty seven service points.

Cape Elizabeth’s effort was paced by McQueeny, who had 21 assists, Rudberg, who finished with 14 kills and five service points, and Vaine, who had 10 service points, four blocks and four kills.

Thornton added seven service points and Rasco had four kills and a pair of service points.

“Yarmouth just has our number,” Boeckel said. “They did what they needed to do. I hope we live to play them again. They’re on quite a streak of beating us. They play more to win and we play not to lose. We have to beat them. They won’t give it to us. We’ll take this as a learning opportunity. We weren’t mentally ready to play today. It wasn’t so much physical. Yarmouth played a really good match and we didn’t play as well as we could.”

Act III?

If the teams meet for a third time, it will likely come Oct. 29 at the University of Southern Maine in the Class B state final match.

But first, both squads have work to do.

Cape Elizabeth (currently ranked third in the Class B Heal Points standings) finishes its regular season Tuesday at home versus Kennebunk.

“I think we’ll fall two or three, but hopefully not four (and be in the same region as Yarmouth),” said Boeckel. “We have to be more mentally prepared the next time we play them.”

Yarmouth (which will be the top seed in Class B) has two road matches remaining, at Windham Tuesday and at Falmouth Oct. 18.

“We want to keep this going,” Miller said. “We just need to keep practicing. We have to work on placing the ball better where we can score.”

“I thought we might have lost by now and I don’t want to jinx us, but I don’t want to lose,” Dickson said. “I’m pretty sure we’ll see Cape again and that’s something to look forward to.”

“We’ve always got things to work on,” Senecal added. “We have moments where we start looking at each other on balls in the back row and don’t communicate like we should. We’re still working on our attack in the middle.

“It’s likely we’ll see (Cape) again and it’s hard to beat a good team three times. We don’t want to play them in the (state) final, but we certainly would. I hope we won’t have to play them in the semis.”

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

Comments are not available on this story.