LEWISTON — With Lewiston’s first-year volleyball program, there’s a first time for everything.

Thursday night at Coach Fern Masse Court, the Blue Devils won their first-ever playoff match, beating Portland 3-1 in a thrilling Class A play-in round matchup.

“I was so excited for the girls. They did such a good job, being the first year playing and having no experience in an atmosphere like this,” Lewiston coach Nikki Pringle said. “I was just so proud of how well they were able to sort of keep it together and get it back together when things weren’t going their way.”

Things weren’t going the No. 16 Blue Devils’ (2-13) way in the opening set. They fell behind 6-2 to a No. 17 Bulldogs (2-13) team that beat them 3-0 in Portland earlier this season. But the Blue Devils were able to rally to win the set 25-23.

“This was the first game we’ve played this year where we won the first set, and I really think that made a difference for them in feeling confident and comfortable in their ability,” Pringle said.

Lewiston senior Sage Cormier (two aces, three digs, four kills, 28 of 28 hitting) said the team was feeling good after jumping ahead for the first time.

“We really wanted this win tonight to make history for our school again,” Cormier said. “We were just saying we need to keep our energy up. It was a big thing for us.”

The second set started out in similar fashion, with Lewiston falling behind 5-1 before eventually winning the set 25-23 again.

The Bulldogs battled back in the third set, winning 25-19 thanks to a seven-point spree while Inas Ilaari was serving.

“We just talked quickly about, definitely in that third set, there was a lack of communication. They stopped, really, calling the ball and talking to each other,” Pringle said. “We’ve been going over that all season long, and how vital that is to volleyball. So we just talked briefly about, you know, ‘You have to start talking to one another,’ and just certainly not to relax a lot, but relax a little bit because we still have at least two sets to go. So try to just stay calm and not feel like it was all or nothing for that next set.”

Lewiston fell behind multiple times in the fourth set, including getting down 21-12 before freshman Maddie Oliveira  helped serve the Blue Devils to within 21-20.

“So many of the girls played so incredible tonight, but I think Maddie in particular (must have) had at least 12 aces,” Pringle said. “But so many assists, so many aces, she had some kills. She has such a good command of the court and she’s such a great leader for the team.”

Oliveira finished with 10 aces, to go along with 13 assists and one kill.

After a quick Portland point ended Lewiston’s run, the Blue Devils took the lead 23-22 before the teams battled back and forth as the decisive 25th point drew closer. The set went beyond that 25th point until Portland looked like it was going to take it 27-25. However, an illegal hit was called, giving the point and the ball to Lewiston.

“I thought it was their point, to be honest,” Cormier said.

Pringle said she knew it was an illegal hit.

“I really just kind of stayed focused on the girls and trying to get them to understand that it was their ball,” Pringle added.

That was a sigh of relief for Cormier and her teammates.

“It was like, ‘Game’s not over.’ It was a huge feeling that we had,” Cormier said.

Two Kassandra Cornejo (10 of 11 serving, 12 digs, two aces, two kills) serves later and Portland hit a return well wide of the sideline, giving the Blue Devils the set win at 28-26 and the match victory that sends them to a second-round matchup with No. 1 Biddeford.

“I was just like yelling, ‘Out!’ so that we didn’t hit it,” Cormier said. “When it’s that far out, we kind of knew that we were going to win, but it was just a good feeling.”

Abi Beaucage recorded 14 digs and four kills, Kaitlyn Shannon had seven digs, two aces and two kills, and Theresa Shaw added five digs, two kills and one assist while going 18 of 19 hitting.

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