GORHAM — Sitting on the bench in the aftermath of her team’s first volleyball state championship, Gorham senior Amber Bretton struggled to make sense of it all.

“It’s like a dream,” she said. “There’s no way this is real. Someone pinch me. This is not real.”

Ah, but it was. It is.

The top-seeded Rams, who failed to win a single set in Class A state final appearances in 2018 and 2022, nearly ran the table against No. 3 Scarborough on Tuesday night inside Hill Gym on the campus of the University of Southern Maine before surviving one last comeback attempt in the fourth set.

The scores were 25-17, 25-11, 23-25 and 25-21. Gorham (15-2) ended its season with 14 consecutive victories after losing two of its first three matches, including one at home against the Red Storm (13-4).

The Rams returned the favor at Scarborough later in September, in yet another five-set match. How close were they during the regular season? Out of more than 400 rallies in their two matches, Gorham accumulated 213 points and Scarborough 211.


However, Tuesday night was different. Gorham opened leads of 6-0 and 4-0 in the first two sets as Scarborough struggled to form an attack.

“They call it being ‘out of system,’ ” said Gorham Coach Emma Tirrell. “Scarborough was having trouble getting the ball to their hitters. We didn’t miss our serves and we didn’t make errors, and we got to keep serving because Scarborough wasn’t generating swings. That was a huge catalyst for why we were able to continue playing as well as we were.”

“We just didn’t have our typical ball control,” said Scarborough Coach Nicole Petherbridge. “It’s that ball control that enables us to run our offense.”

A packed gymnasium contributed to the championship feel, with the Scarborough student section decked out in Halloween costumes and the Gorham student section dressed all in blue, instead of the school’s maroon and black colors, as a tribute to those in Lewiston suffering from the mass killings last week. A moment of silence preceded the match.

With a 9-2 Gorham lead in the second set, the blue-clad and face-painted students started a chant of “It’s too easy.” On cue, the next Rams serve failed to clear the net.

That was one of Gorham’s few early mistakes. Scarborough, meanwhile, made at least three service errors in each of the first two sets. The Red Storm found a rhythm in the third, taking a 19-13 lead before Gorham embarked on a 9-0 run and seemed poised to complete the sweep.


Alana Sawyer came up big for Scarborough down the stretch, and the Red Storm prevailed after a long rally on set point to extend the match to a fourth set.

When Scarborough opened the fourth with a 4-0 lead, a fifth set seemed inevitable. Instead, Gorham responded with a decisive 14-2 run thanks in large part to the serving of seniors Sophia DiPhilippo and Meryk Lewellen.

“Since our energy was so high, I think they just couldn’t match it,” said DiPhilippo, the setter, who finished with 34 assists.

Trailing 24-15 in the fourth, Scarborough staved off six match points thanks to the serving of Julia Strouse and the outside hitting of Natalie Moynihan before one last spike caught too much net and set off a Gorham celebration.

“Our program has never won and it meant a really big deal to us,” said Lewellen, a middle hitter who led the Rams with 12 kills, mixing finesse tips with powerful spikes. “It was amazing. We’ve been wanting it so bad for the past three years, so to finally get it means a lot.”

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