George Stevens Academy’s Lily Jaffray blocks Mount Desert Island’s Nevaeh Warren at the net during the third set of a high school volleyball match March 19 in Blue Hill. GSA improved to 5-0 on the season with wins over MDI and Ellsworth. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY MIKE MANDELL

GSA volleyball team rolls past MDI, Ellsworth to reach 5-0

BLUE HILL — What should have been a glorious fall sports season for Sophia Biggie-Jennings was instead a major gut punch.

Biggie-Jennings, a junior at George Stevens Academy, had long pictured this past fall as a golden opportunity for the GSA volleyball team. With all but one player back from a squad that went 13-3 a season earlier, the Eagles had lofty goals as the season came closer into view.

Yet with the novel coronavirus maintaining its iron grasp, a season that was expected to be a strong one for GSA was turned on its head. Instead of playing to put themselves at the top of the Class C standings and compete for championships, the Eagles found themselves competing in modified matches outdoors on just a few occasions.

“It really sucked,” Biggie-Jennings said. “We have a talented group of girls who really want it, and it was hard not to get that chance to show it.”

The current winter/spring season, though still not quite the same as a traditional year, has given GSA that chance. There still won’t be a Gold Ball at the end of the line, but a structured season has seen the Eagles return to playing standard matches — and winning them.

GSA is now 5-0 on the season after victories in its two most recent contests. The Eagles claimed their fourth win of the year with a three-set victory over Mount Desert Island on Friday in Blue Hill before beginning the second half of the regular season with a four-set road win Monday against Ellsworth.

On Friday, GSA hosted MDI in a battle of two undefeated teams. The Eagles came back from an early deficit to claim a 25-21 victory in the first set, dominated the second set to win 25-14 and held off the Trojans (2-1) 25-23 in the third to win in straight sets for the third consecutive match.

GSA’s Sophia Biggie-Jennings serves during the third set of a high school volleyball match against MDI on March 19 in Blue Hill. The junior-heavy Eagles are hoping to carry momentum from this year’s winter/spring season into the fall 2021 campaign. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY MIKE MANDELL

“We really wanted this one,” Biggie-Jennings said following the win. “They challenged us there [in that last set], but we’re a mentally strong team that has a lot of support, and we calmed down and kept our heads up when we needed it.”

Evelyn Dagan had eight aces, 12 assists, 10 kills and three digs for GSA, which got seven aces, seven kills and three digs from Biggie-Jennings and eight digs from Sophie Peasley. Cassie Cloutier (two assists and two kills), Regan Libby (three digs) and Frances Spangler (two aces, two assists and two digs) also contributed for the Eagles.

“[MDI] was the toughest team we played this season, but we worked really, really hard, stayed focused and didn’t let anything drop,” said GSA co-coach Aleta Schmidt. “We played smart, kept the ball in the play and found the right spots, and we were able to close it out.”

GSA returned to action Monday and completed a season sweep of Ellsworth with a four-set win at Ellsworth High School. The teams split the first two sets before the visitors won the third and fourth games to claim a 25-14, 22-25, 25-18, 25-18 victory.

With the wins, GSA has now won 18 of its past 21 matches dating back to the start of last season. The Eagles have slightly altered their rotation this year with Biggie-Jennings moving to the outside and Lily Jaffray and Hailey Vogell anchoring a 5-1 formation in the middle, but the team as a whole has seen relative continuity on its road to success in recent years.

“Our group is really dedicated, and we’ve just kept pushing harder to get better and better,” Biggie-Jennings said. “This year, we’ve moved around and found a rotation that really works for us, and we’re doing great with it.”

GSA’s next match will be on the road against Jonesport-Beals at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 25. The Eagles will then close out the regular season with matches against Sumner at 5:30 p.m. Friday, March 26, in Blue Hill and next Tuesday, March 30, in Sullivan.

After that, GSA will conclude the season with a pod tournament that the team hopes will be a springboard to a successful fall 2021 season. Although the Eagles will lose a valuable senior, Peasley, to graduation, the team will have the rest of its members back as it chases the dream that was lost in 2020.

“We’ve been talking about how this season is to prep us for the championship next season, we’ve been mixing it up a bit and doing whatever we can to figure out what we have.” Schmidt said. “We’re going to take it home next year; that’s our goal.”

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell is the sports editor at The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander. He began working for The American in August 2016. You can reach him via email at [email protected]

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