GORHAM—The Rams swept the visiting Scots in straight sets on Saturday, Sept. 22. Gorham held Bonny Eagle to single-digit point totals in the first and second sets, and while Bonny Eagle surged in the third set, they couldn’t manage to upset Class A’s only remaining undefeated outfit.
“We knew that if we played our game, and as tough as we could, it was still going to be a tough road,” Bonny Eagle head coach Kelley Champagne said of facing off with the Rams. “The energy that Gorham brings is fantastic.”
“We had a tough defeat on Thursday night; I’m not going to lie,” Champagne said. “Where we won the first two sets and we were in control and the team came back and beat us in five. And I think they still haven’t gotten their heads around it. We’ve also had a few injuries, so I had switch some people around. So our comfort zone of who’s next to whom is a little bit different.”
“[We’re] coming off of Deering; we played really well on Thursday,” Gorham head coach Emma Tirrell said, “and I’ve been talking to the girls about, ‘Let’s play consistently well, and try not to rollercoaster with our energy.’ It was really great that we came out on a Saturday morning – which is already kind of weird for us – and played with the same energy we played with on Thursday.”
Tirrell highlight her girls’ solid mechanics. “The girls were passing really well, they were stopping their feet when they were passing, they were angling their platform to their target,” she said. “Setters were doing a really good job running to the net and stopping their feet when they were setting, and hitters were doing a great job working on their timing with the ball.”
The Rams’ strong mechanics – their emphasis on fundamentals – helped them stay in-system for much of the match, which produced spectacular dividends. Gorham sprang out to an early 10-4 lead in the first set, and continued to outpace Bonny Eagle as the action unfolded: The Rams moved to 12-4 on a tip by Caralin Mills, 14-5 on a point by Evelyn Kitchen, and 23-8 on a slam by Meg Perry.
Gorham also took advantage – throughout the entire match, in fact – of Bonny Eagle’s missteps. The Rams won the first set, for instance, when Scot Hannah Corbett sent the ball sailing into the gym rafters in a valiant but off-balance effort to keep play alive. 25-8.
“They gave us a lot of free balls,” Perry said of Bonny Eagle, “that made us work well with hitting. We got into their heads a lot with hitting, and putting it in spots they weren’t. And we know who to keep the ball away from – their middle, Morgan Drinkwater, is very good. She puts it in a lot of different spots. We also try to keep it away from their setter, because it’s hard for teams to get out-of-system balls. And I thought we played really smart across the net, seeing where they were on the court.”
Bonny Eagle kept abreast of their hosts for the first few points of the second set. After 3-3, however, Gorham began to pull away: The Rams jumped to 7-3 on a Sarah Slager ace and 12-4 on a nice block by Mills and Katherine O’Donnell.
Further, the Scots gave up a number of points on (what appeared to be) a lack of communication. Specifically, the ball dropped several times in the midst of multiple converging players, none of whom had evidently laid claim to the hit. The Rams, though, took the set through their own efforts, winning 25-6 on an ace.
The Scots earned the first point in the third set, and even inched out front 2-0 to start; Gorham, though, hashed the following 10 points. Nevertheless, the Scots persisted: The team battled back, slashing their deficit to a mere two points at 17-15 and then 18-16. But fate smiled soon enough on the Rams, who won 25-19 when Libby Mitchell (not that Libby Mitchell) turned in a great dig to keep the ball in play and a teammate capped the afternoon with a forceful stuff at the net on an attempted Bonny Eagle return.
“In the third set, [the girls] just realized we were warmed up; they were ready to play,” Champagne said. “And Gorham changed their lineup just a little bit, and we decided to put more of the balls between the lines. Simple enough. We made enough errors, we were stiff and rigid – and then we relaxed.”
“They started to listen on ball placement, and where to tip the ball,” Champagne continued. “It kind of worked out; we got a little bit of momentum.”
Despite the loss, Champagne praised a handful of her girls: “Morgan Drinkwater; I always love when she’s passing, and in the front row. She had a couple of uncharacteristic placement misses, but everything else, I can rely on her all the time. And Makala Greene, for serving, really came in and helped us out today. Our setters are working hard, but we’re not making it easy on them.”
Likewise, Tirrell offered plaudits for many of her girls. “Pretty much everybody is playing really well,” she said. “Katie O’Donnell is one our hitters and passers that’s playing all the way around. That’s been a huge rock on the court for us. Isabelle Kolb and Sara Slager are doing a great job setting – definitely improved since the beginning of the year.”
“And then Colette Romatis, Meg Perry, Maya Carlson, Evelyn Kitchen – all of our hitters have been having between four and 10 kills every game, so it’s not just one or two hitters that are swinging,” Tirrell said. “Talia Catoggio is doing a great job in the back row; Haley Burns and Libby Mitchell. It’s pretty crazy; we have a really deep bench. We’re doing a great job.”
“We’ve been really focusing on our mental toughness, and I think that’s what got us through this game and the last game we had,” Perry said. “It’s also so much fun if we have a lot of energy throughout the game. We’ve been working on that during practices.”
The victory bumped Gorham to 7-0 on the autumn. The Rams are ranked second at present, behind only Falmouth (5-1). Scarborough (6-1) and Biddeford (6-1) sit in third and fourth, respectively. Gorham dropped in on the Tigers on Tuesday, Sept. 25, picking up their eighth win of the season. They host No. 6 Windham (4-3) on Thursday the 27th.
“It’s been a really big year for us,” Tirrell said. “We’ve worked a lot on mentality, on physicality. We’ve done a really good job proving to ourselves that we can win consecutive games…7-0 is a really big deal, because last year we went, I think, 9-6. So we’re hoping to work hard and take some games we didn’t take last year.”
Gorham’s 9-6 finish last year perhaps belies the quality of their play at the time; the Lady Rams were a threat to most of the clubs they faced. This year, with more experience under their belts, they’re taking the next step and closing some deals they previously failed to close.
“It’s kind of the same team as last year,” Tirrell said; “just 2.0 this year…They all play their hearts out – and they play club in the winter, which is fantastic. They’re getting better.”
“Our toughest opponent so far was South Portland,” Perry said, “when we went to five sets. From that game, we’ve grown a lot, with playing with each other and becoming a team. We all work really well together…Mentally, we’re super-excited. But we’re not going to let down with other teams. We’re going to stay tough through every single game, and play our hardest every single game.”
Bonny Eagle, meanwhile, slipped to 2-5 on the result. The No. 9 Scots sit a slot back from Cheverus (3-4) and a slot ahead of Brunswick/Mt. Ararat (1-6). The team welcomed Falmouth on Tuesday the 25th, falling 3-0. They visit No. 5 Deering (6-2) on Thursday.
Adam Birt can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME.
Caralin Mills works near the net for Gorham.
Kiara Morse lunges after a ball for the Scots.
Ainsley Christianson serves for the Rams.
Ellie Perry serves for Gorham.
Makala Greene volleys for Bonny Eagle.
Meg Perry vies at the net for Gorham.
Nicole Norman serves for the Scots.
Kylea Ryerson volleys for Bonny Eagle.
BE junior Morgan Drinkwater connects with a ball.
Additional photos can be found here: