ELLSWORTH — With little separating the Ellsworth and Mount Desert Island volleyball teams Wednesday, every point mattered.
Each serve, kill, block and volley brought roars from both ends of the floor at Ellsworth’s Katsiaficas Gymnasium. Leads changed constantly, and no advantage seemed safe.
Although fans of both teams made plenty of noise, the Ellsworth and MDI benches provided the bulk of the racket. With both teams hoping to earn a vital win, it was the visitors who outlasted the home team to get it.
MDI edged Ellsworth in three tightly contested sets Wednesday to record a 25-22, 25-23, 31-29 victory. The match served to energize both of Hancock County’s Class B volleyball teams as they prepare for the final stretch of the season.
“That was a heck of a battle,” Ellsworth head coach Jamie Calandro said. “We fought point for point, and all three sets went down until the end. Both teams played very well, and it was a lot of fun to coach.”
Although neither team led by more than three points throughout a back-and-forth first set that ultimately resulted in a tight MDI win, Ellsworth opened up a big lead in the second. Riding key kills and blocks from Olivia Robidoux and Samantha Simmons, the Eagles surged to an 18-9 advantage that put them in position to even the match at one set apiece.
MDI, though, would engineer a fierce comeback. After the Trojans (2-5) cut Ellsworth’s lead to 23-22, a clutch block from junior Ruby Brown tied the score and gave the visitors the momentum they needed to win the ensuing two points and take a two-set lead.
Ellsworth (2-5) led by six points twice in the third set, first when it went ahead 12-6 and again when it won five straight points after MDI had cut the lead to 14-13. Yet the Trojans fought back once again and outlasted the Eagles in a marathon final set that lasted 60 points.
“We definitely put ourselves in some holes in those second and third sets, but we were able to stay alert, which is something we talked about a lot in practice leading up to tonight,” MDI head coach Corey Papadopoli said. “The serving could have been a bit better at times, but when the girls needed those clutch points to come back, they got them.”
Brown and Julia Link provided a team-high five aces for the Trojans, and Brown also led the team in digs with five. Victoria Del Cid was the team leader in assists with 13, and junior Kate Hoff provided five blocks.
The win was a crucial one for Papadopoli and the Trojans, who are now just one spot off the final Class B playoff spot in ninth place. Papadopoli took a year off as head coach last season, but the chance to lead this bunch of MDI players was all the reason he needed to come back in 2018.
“I came back because I love the girls,” Papadopoli said. “This is really just a great group of players to coach, and they work hard and play for each other.”
On the other side, Simmons and Robidoux combined for 22 kills and seven blocks for Ellsworth. Elsewhere, Olivia Dyer led all players with 24 assists, and fellow seniors Kristen Omlor and Sophia Petros combined for 18 digs and 10 aces.
Despite the loss, Calandro was pleased with his team’s performance coming off a major win over the weekend. The Eagles provided a stern test for the Trojans and showed the tenacity and power they did when they defeated Cony 3-0 in Augusta four days earlier.
“We’ve gotten our legs under us, and we’re starting to create an intricate offense that has really helped a lot of our hitters,” Calandro said. “Our setters have been able to put it to the front row and put it to the back row, and that’s given us a little bit more of a complex offense that other teams are struggling to defend.”
Ellsworth will now have five days off before its next match, which will be played at home against Brewer (8-1) at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 2. MDI will take on Cony (0-9) on the road at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, and also hosts Washington Academy at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“The schedule ahead is still challenging, but now we have some momentum on our side as we go forward from here,” Papadopoli said. “I think both teams are going to build off this in a big way.”