Messalonskee’s Lily Mitchell (3) and Sofia Derosby (11) defend at the net against Yarmouth’s Ella Cameron during the second set of a Class B semifinal volleyball match Oct. 25 at Yarmouth High School. Mike Mandell/Morning Sentinel

YARMOUTH — It looked done and dusted. Instead, the Messalonskee volleyball team gave Yarmouth the fight of its life.

It wasn’t enough Wednesday as the Eagles fell 3-2 (25-15, 25-16, 20-25, 19-25, 15-7) to the Clippers in a thrilling five-set Class B semifinal match. What it said about a team in only its third year of varsity play, though, wasn’t lost on Messalonskee first-year coach Dan Juilli.

“They wanted it, and they refused to quit,” he said. “This group is going to go down the record books for what they did here, and tonight, they played their best volleyball of the season. There were just a few bounces that didn’t go our way.”

The win sent Yarmouth, which has won the past four Class B state titles, to its fifth consecutive state championship game. The Clippers can move within one state championship of Greely’s state-record nine with a win over No. 1 Washington Academy (16-0) at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the University of Southern Maine.

Messalonskee trailed the match 2-0 after Yarmouth cruised to a first-set win and held off the Eagles after the visitors charged late in the second. Messalonskee then held off a Clippers team that showed its own resiliency in the third and fourth sets but couldn’t close out the comeback as a big Yarmouth run sealed the deal.

Although second-ranked Yarmouth (13-3) controlled the first set early, Messalonskee stayed in it to keep the deficit to just 10-9. Powered by six straight service points from Norah Lushman, though, the Clippers created some breathing room and coasted the rest of the way to an opening-set victory.


No. 3 Messalonskee (15-1) then got out to a 5-2 second-set lead that included a marathon sixth point, but Yarmouth fired back by winning the next 12 to turn the game on its head. The Eagles rallied with their backs against the wall, but a late 5-0 run could not prevent the Clippers from moving within a game of victory.

“We were swinging really big early in the game, and when we swing big, good things happen,” said Yarmouth head coach Erin Quirk. “I thought we went away from that a little bit, but fortunately, we found it again at the end. We just had to play it set by set. We knew they were a tough team.”

Messalonskee wasn’t about to go quietly into the night, and holding a 12-11 lead in the third set, the Eagles went on a 6-0 run that proved too much for Yarmouth to overcome. The visitors then went up 13-6 in the fourth set and withstood a pair of Clippers runs to force an improbable fifth and decisive game.

With the tiebreaking fifth set tied 4-4, Madi Beaudoin stepped up to serve for Yarmouth. The junior defensive specialist/libero immediately gave the Clippers the countersurge they needed, serving nine straight points and leaving Messalonskee, no matter how pliable, with simply too little room for a comeback.

“I was really just hoping to get that momentum back up for us, and once I got going, I think the energy on and off the court really helped us do that,” Beaudoin said. “I haven’t (played in a match that crazy before). States last year was intense, but the energy from the crowd and the other team coming back was amazing.”

The atmosphere was fitting for a state semifinal between a perennial power and an unbeaten opposition. With fans of both teams packing the main grandstand, the secondary bleachers had to be brought out mid-match. Messalonskee brought 70-80 or so fans, while Yarmouth’s student section alone was almost that many strong.

“I think the crowd being as full as it was just really shows how much we love this sport,” Quirk said. “There was such good energy. We knew Messalonskee would bring a lot of people and have really big energy, and we wanted to be able to match that and have fun with it. It was a great atmosphere and a great game.”

Messalonskee had not lost a set all year entering the match, a feat that was always likely to fall on the road against powerhouse Yarmouth. Although it did in the form of a loss, the way the Eagles rallied back was a testament to a team Juilli thinks will forever stand out even as the young program continues to grow.

“Nobody would have expected us to go five here after those first two sets,” Juilli said. “These girls did something amazing, and I don’t know if it’ll ever happen again. It’s a tough one — you never want to lose the last one — but these girls battled all year and left it all out there tonight.”

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