YARMOUTH—Scarborough’s volleyball team has turned the corner and that’s bad news for everyone in the Red Storm’s path.
Scarborough, the reigning Class A champion, coming off an inspirational five-set victory over Gorham, took its show to defending Class B champion Yarmouth Thursday night and the Red Storm dictated terms most of the way.
Sophomore sensation Natalie Moynihan put on a serving exhibition in the first game, delivering five aces to help Scarborough pull away for a 25-14 victory.
In the second set, the Red Storm took leads of 17-10 and 21-15 and appeared on the brink of taking a stranglehold of the match, but the proud Clippers rallied and when junior Annie Vinnakota had a late service run of her own, the home team had evened things up with a 25-22 win.
But Scarborough didn’t buckle and behind the power of Moynihan (six kills) and the serving of junior Olivia Smith, took a 25-18 decision for a 2-1 advantage in the match.
The Red Storm never trailed in the fourth game and gradually pulled away to a 25-13 victory to bring the curtain down on a 3-1 match win.
Scarborough improved to 5-1 and in the process, handed Yarmouth its first loss in seven outings this fall and snapped the Clippers’ three-year, 38-match win streak.
“We expected this to be a battle,” said Red Storm coach Kim Stoddard. “It came down to how well we started and how we came back when they started pounding the ball back at us.”
Scarborough and Yarmouth each won state titles in breathtaking fashion a year ago, the Red Storm holding off host Biddeford in five-games and the Clippers rallying to edge visiting Cape Elizabeth in five-sets.
This fall has been more of the same as both squads hope to make a repeat run.
Scarborough started with three-set home victories over Windham and Bonny Eagle, then downed host Cheverus in four-games. After dropping a five-set decision at Cape Elizabeth, the Red Storm rallied from down 2-0 to beat visiting Gorham in a palpitating playoff rematch Friday, 3-2.
As for Yarmouth, it won its first two matches in straight sets, at Falmouth and Cape Elizabeth, then defeated visiting Greely in four. After a 3-0 victory at Gray-New Gloucester, the Clippers blanked visiting South Portland and host Cheverus.
Last year, host Yarmouth beat Scarborough in a tight four-set match (25-23, 25-22, 15-25, 25-23).
Thursday, in front of a vocal crowd, the Clippers hoped to extend their match win streak (which dated to early September of 2019) to 39, but the Red Storm crashed the party, beating Yarmouth for the first time since Sept. 20, 2016.
Scarborough set the tone with an ace from Smith, but the first game was tied at 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, 5-5, 6-6 and 7-7, before a Moynihan ace gave the Red Storm the lead for good. Smith added a kill, then Moynihan served up two more aces, forcing Yarmouth coach Jim Senecal to call timeout. It didn’t help, as Moynihan produced another ace, Smith had a kill, junior Samantha Cote added consecutive kills, then Moynihan had one final ace to cap a nine-point service run, making it 16-7.
“I was just kind of aiming in-between people and it seemed to be working, so I kept doing it,” said Moynihan.
“The Moynihan kid is fantastic,” Senecal said. “That serve, especially in the first set, just took us out of it.”
Moynihan’s service run ended when she faulted, barely, hitting the top of the net.
The Clippers weren’t able to make a serious run, never drawing closer than 17-11 and Scarborough pulled away behind kills from junior Julia Strouse and Moynihan, then Yarmouth hit the ball into the net to end it, 25-14.
While Yarmouth got the first point of the second game, on a block from senior Dorcas Bolese after a long rally, the Red Storm rattled off the next five. The visitors went ahead, 9-4, on a Moynihan kill, but a block from freshman Grace Keaney pulled the Clippers within 10-8, forcing Stoddard to call timeout.
It did the trick, as a Moynihan kill, followed by a Moynihan ace sparked a run and when Smith served up consecutive aces, the lead was 17-10. Yarmouth roared back within three on an ace from sophomore Madi Beaudoin, a kill from Vinnakota and a block from senior Leila Tati Pambou, but a kill from junior Alana Sawyer, a Moynihan block and a Moynihan kill produced a seemingly safe 21-15 lead.
But the Clippers refused to lose a second straight set, creeping back to 21-18, then, after a Moynihan kill, Yarmouth got the next point and Vinnakota stepped to the service stripe. After consecutive Vinnakota aces forced Stoddard to use another timeout, the visitors hit the ball into the net, tying the score. Vinnakota kept serving the ball over and Scarborough hit the ball into the net three more times and stunningly, the Clippers had erased the deficit and evened the match with a 25-22 victory.
Vinnakota had nine service points in the game.
“Second set, I thought we were out it, then I look up and somehow, Annie had a string of serves and found the holes and did a nice job,” Senecal said.
Yarmouth got the first point of the pivotal third set, but that would be its highwater mark. With Smith producing six assists and three kills and Moynihan registering six kills, the Red Storm gradually stretched their lead. The Clippers were within one at 15-14, but a Moynihan kill, followed by a Smith kill after a long point and a kill from Strouse made it 20-14. Yarmouth pulled within 21-18, but Moynihan countered with a kill and after another Scarborough point and a Senecal timeout, the Clippers hit the ball out, then couldn’t return it and the Red Storm had a 25-18 win and a 2-1 lead.
“We just kind of focused on correcting our mistakes and moving on to the next game,” said Moynihan.
“We have a commitment to each other to stick together as a team,” Stoddard said. “Even if we’re down, we refuse to stay down and we keep trusting each other.”
Scarborough left no doubt in closing it out in the fourth set.
Yarmouth was even at 3-3, but the next four points went to the visitors, capped by an ace from Strouse. Kills from Moynihan, Strouse and Moynihan made it 15-7. With the score 17-10, Smith had a kill, then Moynihan served up two more aces before junior Elizabeth Aubrey had a kill, Cote produced another, Moynihan served up one final ace and Aubrey had a kill as well to make it 24-10 and set up match point. The Clippers stayed alive by winning the next three points before they failed to return the ball and the Red Storm had a 25-13 win and were able to celebrate their four-set match victory.
“This was so fun,” Moynihan said. “These are my favorite matches to play, when it’s close like this. We made a lot of silly mistakes in our loss (to Cape) and we learned to be smart. We just gave it our all tonight and I’m really proud of us. We played really well. I think people thought we lost our whole team, but we’ve proved that’s not true. We have new players who are doing really well.”
“It really goes back to the Cape match where we started off strong, then they fought back and we kind of crumbled,” Stoddard said. “Against Gorham, we held firm and that made all the difference coming into tonight and we started strong tonight. We won with tough serving, which has been a focus, our serve-receive stepped up tonight, our hitters took care of the ball when we had good chances and we used their big block to our advantage.”
Moynihan dazzled with 15 service points (including nine aces), 17 kills and four blocks.
“I have more confidence this year,” said Moynihan. “I trust my teammates and they trust me.”
“It’s easy to forget Natalie’s still a sophomore when she’s as good as she is,” Stoddard said. “She’s open to learning and getting better. I’m excited to have her part of the team.”
Smith had eight service points, 18 assists and 10 kills. Strouse finished with 15 assists, a dozen service points and five kills. Sawyer added six service points, five kills and two blocks.
For Yarmouth, Vinnakota had 11 service points and five kills, Bolese produced nine kills, Beaudoin had eight service points and senior Alla Elhai finished with 18 assists.
“We just came up against a Scarborough team tonight that played at the top of their game,” Senecal said. “They really did a great job. We just have to hit more consistently, but it’s hard when you’re getting drilled. We were on our heels and our first passes weren’t great. That means the sets weren’t great and you’re free-balling it back to a great team that’s licking their chops. We couldn’t capture momentum from them because of their serving and power.”
The Clippers and Red Storm now return their focus to being the best team in their respective class.
Yarmouth has a week to lick its wounds before hosting Wells next Thursday.
“We feel as we look ahead in our schedule like we have some opportunities to get a lot of players in and grow and learn different things,” Senecal said. “We’re hoping we can learn from this and be ready at the end. There’s a lot of good teams this year. We hope to keep winning and be able to stay at home (for the playoffs).”
Scarborough faces a major test Monday when undefeated, revenge-minded Biddeford pays a visit in what is sure to be a thrilling state rematch.
“I’m really looking forward to Biddeford,” Moynihan said. “It’ll be a really good game. If we play our best then we’ll do really well. We lost to them regular season last year, then beat them in states, so we know even if we lose (Monday), we’re not out of it.”
“I think there’s still a lot of pressure on us,” Stoddard said. “We did win last year and some of those faces are back and they’re playing more starring roles. We’ve had a tough stretch and now we get Biddeford and we’re right where we want to be at this point of the season. A match like this, we learn if we keep at it and stick at it, we’ll have success. Monday, both teams are really strong, so it will come down to mindset.”