Biddeford’s Danielle Emerson gets the ball past Gorham’s Summer Gammon in the Class A state final. Emerson helped lead the Tigers to an 18-0 record and their first state championship since 2010. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

BIDDEFORD — Danielle Emerson wasn’t leaving anything to chance. She was determined to help Biddeford High win the Class A championship after the Tigers lost the 2021 final in five sets to Scarborough, letting a chance to win the school’s first volleyball title since 2010 slip away.

So last winter and spring, Emerson doubled down on improving her game, working with her travel team coach on drills that had her chasing and diving for the ball to become a better defensive player. 

Biddeford junior Danielle Emerson had 168 kills, 114 assists, 94 digs and 53 aces this season. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

And this fall, Emerson worked harder with her Biddeford teammates, striving to evolve into a smarter, more aggressive setter. She became a more vocal leader. She improved her defensive game.

“Last year, I had 33 digs. This year, I had 94,” said Emerson, a junior. “I think we worked very hard this year, especially after last season. Obviously, I wanted a state championship. But I also worked very hard for my teammates, too.”

Emerson helped Biddeford finish 18-0 and defeat Gorham in three sets in the state final. She ended the season with 168 kills, 114 assists, 94 digs and 53 aces and even added 18 blocks. Emerson is our choice as Varsity Maine Player of the Year in volleyball.

“Dani Emerson, obviously, was very, very strong. She is one of the most dominant players in the state, in general,” said Scarborough Coach Kim Stoddard.


Emerson evolved into a premier setter who could quarterback winning plays.

Biddeford Coach Ruth Shaw said Emerson’s mental game improved tenfold. She honed her ability to see where Biddeford needed adjustments and then had the maturity and will to explain that to her teammates. 

When asked about this change in her on-court presence, Emerson shrugged and chalked it up to having played the sport since third grade.

“As you play longer, you come to know the court better. And just from a leader’s perspective, you try to get your team to see it, too,” Emerson said. “If the other team sees us picking on a spot and they can cover it, I definitely try to point that out.”

Shaw was in awe of Emerson’s court vision and her newfound boldness for calling plays. When Shaw would call a timeout, often Emerson would be the first off the court ready to tell her teammates where the holes were on the other team’s side, or where Biddeford needed to adjust on defense. 

I’d call a timeout and she’d say, ‘The left corner is wide open.’ And I’d say, ‘Why did I need to call a timeout?’” Shaw said with a laugh. “She really sees the whole game. Dani has great direction on the ball, too. Some players can hit the ball hard. But Dani sees the open spots. In the state game, she hit the corner with nobody there. Every time she touches the ball, she is hitting it to an open spot.”

Emerson’s work directing the team on the court caught the attention of other coaches who noted how the Tigers played seamlessly this season.

“Biddeford was the most dominant team in the state and she was their most dominant player. There’s no question about that. We had the opportunity to scrimmage them and they handled us pretty easily,” said Yarmouth Coach Jim Senecal, who retired after Clippers won their fourth straight Class B title. 

“They’re one of those teams you don’t know how they beat you, they just do it. They just do everything really well. And she was their best player. She is the best player on the best team.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.