YARMOUTH—Yarmouth didn’t look ahead.

And as a result, it will have a chance to cap the best season in program history with yet another Gold Ball.

Thursday afternoon, the top-ranked Clippers welcomed No. 5 Mt. Desert Island for a Class B volleyball state semifinal and Yarmouth did exactly what it was supposed to do.

Take care of business with limited stress.

The Trojans kept things close in the first set and were down just 14-11, but five service faults hindered their effort and Clippers senior Tristen Rogers excelled at the service stripe, while standout senior setter Sophie Dickson set up her teammates in optimal spots as Yarmouth pulled away for a 25-14 win.

The second game saw the Clippers score the first eight points, as this time, Dickson and senior Elena Miller dominated with their serves and Yarmouth prevailed, 25-8, to take a stranglehold on the match.

MDI did all it could to hang on in the third set and even was tied at 11-11, but a kill from senior Allie McClafferty put the Clippers ahead for good and sparked a 14-2 run to end it and Yarmouth took the game, 25-13, and the match in a quick three sets.

The Clippers improved to 16-0 on the season, ended the Trojans’ campaign at 10-7 and advanced to the Class B state final, where they will meet No. 3 Cape Elizabeth (13-4) Monday at 6 p.m., in Yarmouth, as they go for a third consecutive title.

“We scrimmaged MDI in August and this was not remotely the same team we saw then,” said Clippers coach Jim Senecal. “They’ve improved so much.”

Chasing perfection

Yarmouth has become the Class B volleyball team that everyone else is chasing and after winning state titles in 2018 and 2019, the Clippers can make the argument that this fall, they’re the best team regardless of class.

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, sweeping visiting Cape Elizabeth and closing with 3-0 wins at Windham and Falmouth.

Yarmouth easily dispatched No. 8 Ellsworth in straight sets in Tuesday’s state quarterfinal round.

MDI, meanwhile, was 8-6 in the regular season, then turned it up a notch for the playoffs, first, eliminating No. 12 Nokomis in four games in the preliminary round, then blanking No. 13 York, 3-0, in the quarterfinals.

The Clippers and Trojans didn’t play this year and had no playoff history.

Thursday, Yarmouth needed just 57 minutes to advance, but there were some anxious moments.

The teams traded points early before a couple blocks from junior Dorcas Bolese helped the Clippers open up a 9-4 advantage. MDI battled back within three on a kill from junior Emma Giustini, but Rogers answered with a kill and Bolese had another block. After a block by Trojans junior Claire Moore, MDI faulted and that brought Rogers to the service stripe.

Yarmouth senior Tristen Rogers serves up one of her seven aces during the Clippers’ 3-0 win over Mt. Desert Island in Thursday’s Class B state semifinal. Hoffer photos.

Rogers promptly served up four consecutive aces, causing Trojans coach Corey Papadopoli to call timeout.

It didn’t help, as Rogers served up two more aces.

“I knew we had to get momentum, so I locked it in and just served,” Rogers said. “I got on a roll and got confident.”

“Tristen is our fourth server in our lineup, right in the middle, but clearly, she’s our most aggressive server,” said Senecal. “She leads our team in aces. She helps us out by making some of those service runs for us.”

After a Bolese kill set up set point, freshman Lexi Tozier had a kill for MDI, then served an ace, but she faulted on her next attempt and Yarmouth took game one, 25-14.

“They really gave us a battle, especially in that first set,” Senecal said. “It could have gone either way. Fortunately, we were able to get aggressive when we needed to. Most of our matches are that way. We start off a little tentative, then when we get going, we’re OK.”

Rogers had 11 service points, including six aces, during that game, while Dickson added six assists to set the tone.

The Clippers had an easier time of it in the second set, as Dickson had seven straight service points, including three aces, and sophomore Annie Vinnakota had a couple kills to open up an 8-0 lead. The Trojans got within 12-4, but Bolese had a kill, then Miller served five straight points for a 19-4 lead. After MDI pulled within 20-6, McClafferty had a kill, Dickson served an ace and Yarmouth scored another point to make it 23-6. The Trojans momentarily stayed alive by drawing within 24-8, but a service fault gave the Clippers the second game and a commanding lead in the match.

In the second set, Dickson had 10 service points and three assists, while Miller added six service points, including three aces.

MDI stayed close for much of the third game as well, but Yarmouth had no intention of playing any longer than was necessary.

A pair of kills from Vinnakota got things started and the Clippers jumped to a 4-1 lead, but the Trojans tied it at 5-5, then again at 9-9, 10-101 and 11-11, as a Giustini kill punctuated a long point.

But McClafferty countered with a kill, Miller had another, Rogers had a kill and another point made it 15-11, forcing Papadopoli to call timeout again.

After the teams traded points, Yarmouth opened it up even more behind a Vinnakota ace and a Miller kill. A kill from Moore pulled MDI within 21-13, but after winning consecutive points, the Clippers got one final ace from Rogers, then the Trojans hit the ball into the net and Yarmouth had the third game, 25-13, and the match.

Yarmouth celebrates after sweeping MDI.

“Winning in three sets was very important,” said Rogers.

Rogers finished with 15 points, including seven aces, and also had four kills.

Dickson was her usual strong self, finishing with 20 assists and 12 service points, while playing stellar defense as well.

“Our defense was strong again,” Senecal said. “Sophie Dickson always makes big plays in the back. I can say that every time out. We cover the floor so well defensively. We don’t have the most powerful hitters in the state, or the tallest team, but we extend rallies. It’s a completely different way to coach than how I’ve coached the past three years with those other teams.”

Vinnakota finished with seven service points and six kills, Miller had seven service points and four kills, McClafferty added six kills and five service points and Bolese had three kills and three blocks.

MDI was led by six kills from Giustini. Moore added three blocks.

Here we go again

Yarmouth needed five sets to beat Cape Elizabeth in the 2018 state match, then surprisingly swept the Capers to repeat in 2019. The Clippers won both regular season matches this fall, 3-1 in Cape Elizabeth and 3-0 at home, but they expect the state final to be a fight to the finish.

Even if they’ll be playing on their home court.

“It’s so nice to play at home,” Rogers said. “People will come. It’s great when there’s so much cheering and joy in the gym. I feel so excited because the other years, I haven’t played in states. Our seniors will get to play at states together for the first time, so that will be great to see. We need to stay together as a team and cheer each other on and stay in it. We have to make sure we stay locked in. We can’t get cocky and lose it at the end.”

“I’m not all that happy about (playing here) because I know other people don’t like it,” Senecal said. “There’s precedent, but it caused a lot of controversy. I don’t want the controversy. I’d rather play at a college somewhere, but because of COVID, that’s the way it worked out.

“It’s going to be about controlling emotions. Cape won’t be afraid of us. We can’t get on our heels and play tentative against a quality team. If we’re aggressive, we’ll be fine. We have a lot of seniors. A lot of great leadership. We’re fortunate to have those kids.”

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

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