Shaelyn Thornton of Scarborough returns a serve during the Red Storm's 3-0 win over South Portland on Tuesday in Scarborough. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo
SCARBOROUGH—The last time we saw Scarborough’s volleyball team, the Red Storm had just lost a hard-fought four-set match to Falmouth in the 2019 Class A state final and were primed to make a run at the top spot this year.
Scarborough never got that chance, as the fall volleyball season was first delayed, then eliminated altogether.
The Red Storm spent some time playing outside, but they never got a chance to show just how good they could be indoors.
Until Tuesday night.
At Alumni Gymnasium, Scarborough hosted South Portland in the opener of a one-month wedge season and all the ingredients that make up a championship team were on display, as the Red Storm passed, hit, defended and perhaps most impressively of all, served beautifully in a commanding three-set victory.
Scarborough never trailed in the first set and behind strong serving and hitting from junior Gwen Dorsey prevailed, 25-10.
The Red Riots were more competitive in the second game and were within 16-12 before the Red Storm pulled away behind the serving of senior Shaelyn Thornton to win, 25-13.
Scarborough quickly ended all doubt early in the third set, taking the first eight points, and the serving of senior Mayne Gwyer helps the Red Storm close it out with a 25-10 victory.
Scarborough got double digit service points from three different players and returned to action in victorious fashion.
“I’m so excited to be back in the gym and I can just tell by how the kids are talking on the court, how happy they are too,” said Red Storm coach Kim Stoddard. “We took all last week off, but we came out and played like we’ve played together for months. You can tell by the girls’ energy that they’re so happy and are going to take advantage of playing while they can.”
Scarborough and South Portland were able to play volleyball outdoors back in the fall, but the setting was informal.
“Outdoor volleyball helped the kids remember why they like playing,” Stoddard said. “The ones who really love the sport came and played.”
“We had a fun outdoor season,” said Red Riots’ first-year coach Sarah Marckoon. “We played on the tennis courts which was interesting.
While an indoor wedge season will be short, with no playoffs, it was highly anticipated.
The Red Storm have been a power for many years, winning state titles in 2015 and 2017, while the Red Riots have come on in recent seasons and even got to the Class A state match in 2017, only to lose to Scarborough.
In the most recent full season, 2019, the Red Storm went 14-3 and got to the Class A state match, only to lose to repeat champion Falmouth in four games.
South Portland finished 11-4 in 2019, losing a five-set heartbreaker to Windham in the Class A state quarterfinals.
In the teams’ last meeting, back in the 2019 season, Scarborough beat the Red Riots, 3-0 (25-21, 25-13, 25-20).
Tuesday, the Red Storm came out firing and never looked back.
Junior Maddie Strouse got the first two points of the season on kills and Scarborough added another point before senior Maegan Murphy countered with a kill for South Portland’s first point. A pair of kills from Dorsey then helped Scarborough open up a 7-1 advantage. The Red Riots crept back within 10-5 on a kill from senior Maria Degifico, but after winning the next point, the Red Storm sent Dorsey to the service line and she served nine straight points for a 20-5 lead. After South Portland got within 12, Strouse had a kill and senior Brenna Humpage served an ace to set up set point. The Red Riots got two points back, but a Strouse kill brought the curtain down on Scarborough’s 25-10 first game victory.
In that first set, Dorsey had nine service points and a pair of kills, while Strouse added four kills.
South Portland started the second game fast, taking their only lead of the match, 2-0, but thanks to kills from Dorsey and Strouse and a Thornton ace, the Red Storm ran off five straight points to go on top. The Red Riots tied it up at 6-6, 8-8 (on an ace from Murphy) and 9-9, but a service fault put Scarborough back ahead for good. Leading, 12-11, the Red Storm got a kill from Dorsey and a pair of Gwyer aces. South Portland was still in good shape, down, 16-12, but Scarborough got a kill from junior Mya Jones, then Thornton took over at the service line, delivering seven straight points, including a pair of aces.
“(Our serving) was actually a nice surprise,” Stoddard said. “We’ll usually get two or three in, then miss one, so to be that consistent and hit different spots and challenge the passers was great.”
The Red Riots got a point back, but they then faulted on their serve and the Red Storm took a 2-0 match lead by virtue of a 25-13 victory.
In that game, Thornton had 11 service points, including three aces, and Dorsey added four kills.
Scarborough didn’t waste much time seizing control of the third set, as Thornton opened with a kill and Gwyer served seven straight points, capped by an ace, for an 8-0 advantage.
“We’ve practiced quite a bit on working on serving consistency, so I attribute it to that,” Gwyer said.
South Portland crept back as close at 9-5 on a pair of aces from junior Pearl Friedland-Farley, but a Strouse kill sparked a run. Kills from Dorsey and Gwyer and a pair of aces from Dorsey opened up a 19-7 lead. A kill from Gwyer made it 22-9 and back-to-back kills from senior Grace Dittmer set up match point. When the Red Riots couldn’t return the ball, the Red Storm wrapped it up in exactly an hour with a 25-10 third set victory.
“It’s so nice to be back indoors,” Gwyer said. “It’s a blessing for sure. Regardless of winning or losing, we’re just happy to be inside, on the court, playing together. I think the competition is still there. We’re just as competitive, even without playoffs. We’re still motivated and we’re excited to play every day. We’re playing like a team that’s played together for years. We have really good connection on and off the court.”
“I have seven seniors right now and just as many juniors, so we’re a strong group to start with,” Stoddard said.
Dorsey not only had 12 service points, she also added seven kills. Gwyer finished with 13 assists and 12 service points, including three aces. Thornton had 14 service points, including three aces. Jones had nine assists, Humpage had six service points and Strouse contributed six kills.
South Portland got four kills from Degifico and three assists from Murphy.
“It’s awesome to be playing again,” Marckoon said. “The girls had a lot of fun. This is our first time really playing together and I think it went well. Scarborough will probably be the toughest team we see. The girls communicated very well. They worked hard on defense. Overall, they did everything we’ve worked on in practice. We’re smaller than (Scarborough). They can jump much higher than us. We did a good job trying to adjust to that. ”
South Portland returns to action Thursday when another perennial powerhouse, Cape Elizabeth, pays a visit. The Red Riots host Gorham Saturday.
“My big goal this year is to develop a team culture,” Marckoon said. “It’s my first year with the program and this is a unique opportunity. We want to become a force to be reckoned with.”
Scarborough hosts Biddeford Friday and Gorham Monday. The Red Storm are also looking very forward to matching up with Falmouth (March 27).
“At the end of the day, we want to win and that’s the main goal,” Gwyer said. “We do have a couple matches coming up we’re really excited for. It’s a short season, so we’ll just be excited to get in the gym as much as we can.”
“One of my big goals is training a new setter, because Mayne will be graduating,” Stoddard said. “We have some teams on our schedule coming up that I know the girls want to beat. Falmouth’s like the state championship for us.”