SCARBOROUGH—The line of well-wishers was long, but Gorham coach Emma Tirrell reveled in every hug and congratulatory word.

Moments after the third-ranked Rams finally solved nemesis Scarborough, the No. 2 seed and reigning state champion, in a Class A state semifinal Wednesday evening at Alumni Gymnasium, the overwhelming emotion was exhilaration.

With a little relief mixed in.

The Red Storm defeated Gorham en route to the state championship a year ago and earlier this season, wiped out a two-set deficit before beating the Rams, but this time around, with a berth in the state final at stake, Gorham came of age and made a powerful statement in the process.

The tone was set in an epic first set, which went on and on and on.

The game was nip-and-tuck throughout and both teams had chances to take it and get early momentum, but set point after set point went by unrealized before the Rams finally survived, 31-29.


“Winning that first set was huge,” said Tirrell. “To be honest, it probably meant less than it should have because we lnow Scarborough can come back from any deficit, but anytime you win a set like that, it feels great. If we’d lost it, it would have been an uphill battle.”

“The kids just get tired,” said Scarborough coach Kim Stoddard. “They’re used to going hard, but that was 30 straight minutes of pure focus. Having a few set points then not pulling it off hurt a little bit.”

Scarborough junior Olivia Smith sets the ball during Gorham’s 3-0 victory in Wednesday’s Class A state semifinal. Hoffer photos.

Gorham didn’t skip a beat in the second game, opening up a 22-14 lead and while the Red Storm crept as close as 23-18, the Rams closed it out when Scarborough couldn’t return the ball and a subsequent ace from junior Meryk Lewellen produced a 25-18 victory.

But Gorham knew it was far from finished and sure enough, the Red Storm rose off the deck when the third game began.

An ace from junior Olivia Smith and a kill from classmate Alana Sawyer sparked a run to a quick 5-0 lead. The Rams got another ace from Lewellen, but a kill from Sawyer made it 6-2. Gorham drew within a point at 7-6 (on a kill from junior Summer Gammon), 8-7 (on a kill from junior Amber Bretton) and 9-8, but a kill from Scarborough junior Samantha Cote sparked a 5-0 run, which also featured kills from sophomore Natalie Moynihan and Sawyer, making the score 14-8 and forcing Tirrell to call timeout.

It didn’t help, at least not initially, as the Red Storm were able to maintain a five-point lead on a kill from Smith and they eventually went up by six points twice, 19-13 and 20-14 (on another Smith kill), but the Rams didn’t buckle.


A kill from junior Lillian Andreasen sparked a four-point surge to make it 20-18. Moynihan countered with a kill, but Bretton’s kill pulled Gorham within two again. Sawyer then scored a point on a block, but it would prove to be Scarborough’s final point of the season, as the Rams scored the final six points of the match.

After drawing within 22-21 on a kill from Gammon, Gorham got a break as a point that appeared to go the Red Storm’s way was overturned and the game was deadlocked.

Gammon then produced another kill for the lead. After a Gammon block set up match point, Stoddard called timeout, trying to spark one more rally, but this time it wasn’t to be, as at 7:57 p.m., Gammon produced the kill that ended the third set, 25-22, and gave the Rams a therapeutic 3-0 victory.

Gorham celebrates after punching its ticket to the state match.

“We’ve worked so hard on doing our job and not anybody individually having to be a hero,” Tirrell said. “Our entire team of 18 kids works hard. I told them all you have to do is win a couple points every time you have a serve. When you put it like that, I think we got a little more intent on serving and defense. You can come back when you can win a couple points here and there.

“This means so much. I went to school here (Class of 2015) and I have so much pride to be in this gym. I’ll never forget my time here with (former Red Storm) Coach (Jon) Roberts and Kim Stoddard. They shaped me into who I am today. I love this gym and the energy and the fans. To take a program I’ve taken and built from the ground up and come in here and win, it’s so powerful.”

Gorham is one step from the first championship in program history (the Rams lost, 3-0, to Falmouth in the 2018 final), but will have to get past undefeated, top-ranked Biddeford (16-0) to do so in a match scheduled for 6 p.m., Friday at the University of Southern Maine, just a short trip from Gorham High School.


The Rams will be the underdog, but after solving the Red Storm, are ready for anything.

“We’ll go into practice tomorrow with our heads held high,” Tirrell said. “We’ll play music really loud and we’ll just be positive and love each other and that’s what you do to prepare for a state final.

“Biddeford is absolutely fantastic. I appreciate their coaching staff and team so much. They have players who are as hungry as we are. We’ll have to play our best. Whichever team ends up making the least amount of mistakes will get it done. I have full faith in my girls if we play our best, good things will come.”

On to 2023

Scarborough’s title reign came to an end, but the Red Storm went down swinging and if a few points had gone differently Wednesday, they would have been on the brink of another title.

“Kudos to Gorham,” Stoddard said. “They learned a lot and came so far over the course of the season. Every aspect of their game is relentless, from passing, serving, hitting. We were on our heels most of the time.


“We always know we can come back. The kids on the court, I’d put them against anybody, any day. I’m so proud of how they fought. We almost had that third set, but good for Gorham since that third set is the hardest to win. Their defense was just so strong. They made good passes out of it no matter what we did.

“We had some very high highs and we never really had any lows this season. I wouldn’t even count this as a low. We hadn’t played together much before this season. To see how far we’ve come individually and together makes me so proud of this team. I just don’t want to not see them tomorrow at practice.”

Scarborough parts with senior Agathe Laine, but returns everyone else next year, so look out, Class A.

“Our libero stepped up huge this season as a leader and got our defense in shape,” Stoddard said. “I couldn’t ask for a better senior leader. We’ll miss her, but we have a good core group coming back.

“I suspect everybody that was here tonight will remember this and it won’t happen again.”

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

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