Scarborough’s Maddie Strouse, right, sends the ball past Gorham defenders during their Class A volleyball semifinal on Oct. 28. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

As a sophomore, Maddie Strouse played in the Class A state championship match in 2019 when Scarborough lost to Falmouth.

Strouse was determined not to let the Red Storm fall short of a title in her senior year.

Maddie Strouse: “I have gained a lot of confidence as I’ve gotten older. That has really helped me stay on top of my mental game.” Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

With their standout middle hitter leading the way, the Red Storm prevailed in a tense, five-set match against top-ranked and previously undefeated Biddeford to win their first championship since 2017.

Strouse racked up 187 kills, 53 aces and a .324 hitting percentage this season. Most of all, she was an unflappable leader, which is why she’s the Varsity Maine Player of the Year in volleyball.

“Her stats are not going to be right at the top. The impact she had on the game was measured by how she impacted the other teams, how they played around her. She takes up a lot of space on the court,” said Scarborough Coach Kim Stoddard. “Every time she got a set, I guarantee she got a kill. And she didn’t have a ton of errors.”

Strouse worked this season to maintain her composure as she honed a single-minded focus and fierce desire to win a title. She realized that as much as volleyball is a game of hard hitters and lightning fast, strong and agile athletes, it is first and foremost a game of mental acuity. 

“You can’t control what happens in the past. That thought was what helped me stay on top of my mental game. When I was a freshman (playing on the varsity), it was tough and a lot of stress because when you make a mistake, you think, I’m not good enough,” Strouse said. “But when you’re older, you realize everyone on that court deserves to be there. Everyone is good enough. I have gained a lot of confidence as I’ve gotten older. That has really helped me stay on top of my mental game.”

Stoddard said Strouse was the calm, confident, informed influence on the court that made the difference in Scarborough’s championship season.

“She’s the first to get excited when others do well and, when there’s a mistake, to focus on the next play. She’s a calm presence. It’s so important in high-pressure games,” Stoddard said.

In the state title match, Biddeford won the fourth set to even the score at 2-2. But Scarborough stormed back during that set after being several points down. Though they lost the set, the Red Storm went into the fifth set with a positive mindset. 

“I definitely think going into that match we were the underdog,” Strouse said. “We lost twice to them before, once before the regular season and in the regular season. But I believed we could do it.”

Strouse’s secret weapon was the unexpected shots she would deliver, such as a tip-in or a switch-up from a big, power shot to a soft lob into a hole.

“I’m a big hitter. When I score points hitting the ball hard, it’s expected,” Strouse said. “This season, I mixed in hits with short balls instead of deep balls. It’s a different way of scoring, hitting it with less power. Everyone expects my shot to hit the ground hard, (and) when it doesn’t, it messes up the passers.”

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