SOUTH PORTLAND—Meghan Harmon logged 10 kills to lead the Eagles in a straight-sets defeat of South Portland on Saturday morning, Oct. 6. Windham trailed only a couple times – at the start of the second and third sets – en route to the W over the Riots.
“This one was really important for us,” Windham head coach Chris Cloutier said. “When you looked at everything, it looked like it was going to be a really tight matchup. Stat-wise, we’re all right in line. So it was important that girls come out fired-up.”
“We’ve had a couple, I wouldn’t say ‘easier’ matchups,” Cloutier said, “but matchups where we were able to let off the gas a little bit. I didn’t want the girls to get into that mentality going forward. Especially coming in here. Last year, South Portland beat us in three on a Saturday. I didn’t want that to happen again.”
The Eagles jumped out front 3-0 on the Riots to begin the first set, then steamrolled forward. Harmon set the scoreboard at 10-3 with an ace, Megan Fleck and Sierra Guite teamed up for a block at 13-5, and Morgan Proulx dropped a gentle touch in the midst of South Portland’s several girls for 14-7. The Riots battled admirably – Kelsey Shallow and Grace Rende, for example, combined for a block on Harmon and the team’s ninth point – but just couldn’t keep pace. Windham took set one 25-12.
“This was a good chance for us to maybe move up into that sixth-place spot and stay out of preliminaries for playoffs,” Cloutier said, . “Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ve put ourselves in a spot where we can get a home match. But to not have to play that first round and take that extra risk was important to us.”
The Riots earned a 1-0 advantage, and then a 2-1 advantage, at the start of the second set. But they turned control over to their guests on a long serve at 2-2 and then began to fall behind again. South Portland posted better numbers as the set progressed, but found themselves trailing 17-12, then 18-12, on a pair of Guite tips, and 19-12 on a Lydia Budroe ace. Harmon capped the second with a tip for 25-18.
“They were playing really scrappy defense,” Cloutier said, asked what his girls did right throughout the bout. “Not letting stuff hit the floor. I think the only thing they could’ve done a little bit better was reminding them, at a couple points in there, ‘Hey, you’ve got to keep your foot on the gas.’ We started to stand up on defense, and getting them back in that mentality of ‘nothing can hit the floor’ – they did pretty well with that.”
“We didn’t let South Portland go on large runs,” Cloutier continued. “Which is something that we’ve struggled with all season on serve-receive. You get a good server over there, and a lot of times they’ll serve five, six, seven points on us, and I don’t think South Portland go more than three or four on us at any one time.”
South Portland inched ahead once more, 2-1 and then 3-2, at the outset of the third. Windham, however, surged in response. Harmon aced for 3-3, and again for 5-3. Alexis Budroe next made it 7-4 with a smash and 9-4 with an ace; Guite made it 12-5 with a tip and 15-6 with another tip – and so on and so forth. The morning concluded at 25-19 on a long South Portland serve.
Cloutier nodded at some of his girls in particular. “Sierra, she was getting some aggressive attacks there at the net,” he said. “Meghan had a great day at the net, with 10 kills. And she had 18 service attempts with five aces and only one error, which is huge for us. I tell the girls, ‘It’s not about going out there and getting a power serve, it’s about getting the serve back, so we can run some points together. An aggressive serve, but being smart with it. So we don’t get as many aces as some other teams do, but we try not to make as many errors.”
“Alexis Budreau,” Cloutier went on, “she had six kills. Megan Fleck had a really good game too, as the setter, with 26 assists. When you can put the ball somewhere where your hitters can attack it – that helps the team move forward. Morgan Proulx had four kills, and six digs. Maya Gaudet had nine digs.”
The win pushed Windham to 8-4 on the season. The Eagles, currently ranked sixth in Class A, have two more bouts left on their regular schedule – two more extremely tough bouts: Cape Elizabeth and Yarmouth. The Capers occupy the No. 1 slot in Class B, proud owners of an 11-1 record; the Clippers, meanwhile, occupy the No. 2 slot in Class B, at 9-2. If the Eagles can take down one or both of those outfits, they’ll score huge Heal Points heading into the playoffs, and likely bump themselves up in the standings, earning a better seed and thus a more favorable opponent in the early bracketing.
“We knew, coming up to those next two matches,” Cloutier said, “that getting on it right now and being fired up and ready to go for those and getting ready for playoffs – we had to do that.”
South Portland, now 6-6, sits in seventh in A South. The Riots conclude their regular schedule with No. 10 Thornton (4-6) and No. 3 Scarborough (8-2).
Adam Birt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME.
Kaitlyn Gedicks connects with a ball for the Eagles.
Morgan Proulx chases a ball for the Eagles.
Megan Fleck takes a lot of touches for the Eagles, often setting up her teammates.
Sierra Guite brings imposing play to the net.
Eagle Meghan Harmon is a force to be reckoned with at the net.
Alexis Budroe winds up for an Eagles hit.