ELLSWORTH — Right when it seemed the Ellsworth volleyball team had lost its groove, it ended the game in the most emphatic way possible.
Ellsworth led visiting Bucksport 24-22 in the third set, but momentum wasn’t on the Eagles’ side. The Golden Bucks had won seven consecutive points, and it appeared as if a set that seemed destined to be heading Ellsworth’s way would not do so.
Yet on Senior Night, two of Ellsworth’s star seniors weren’t about to let that happen. After both teams engaged in a short volley that lasted no more than 15 seconds, Bucksport returned a shot that cleared the Eagles’ side of the net by a matter of feet. It was right where Avery Jester was standing.
As soon as she saw where Bucksport’s return was headed, fellow senior Sammy Mason approached the net. Jester set the ball perfectly for her, and Mason smashed it into the hardwood on the other side of the net.
The play sealed a 25-22, 25-18, 25-22 win for Ellsworth in what was the final regular-season match for both teams. It also sent the Eagles, which have been toward the top of the Class B standings all season, to the playoffs on a high note.
“This was a great effort from our seniors to lead us to the win tonight,” Ellsworth coach Whitney Ranger said. “Bucksport is really scrappy, and they caught us off guard a few times.”
Bucksport’s “scrappy” nature showed during the first set. Whenever Ellsworth looked to be pulling away, the Golden Bucks came back to pull the game within a point or tie it. It wasn’t until the Eagles scored the final two points after taking a 23-22 lead that they closed it out.
After Ellsworth cruised to an easier win to begin the second set, the two teams exchanged runs until the Eagles took a clear lead in the third. It was after Bucksport’s rally that Jester and Mason combined for the winning play.
“Avery and Sammy are a huge part of our wins this year,” Ranger said. “They’re both naturally talented and super aggressive, and they go after everything.”
Their one big play aside, Jester and Mason also played big roles in helping Ellsworth (9-5) close out the first set and dominate the second. Jester had a crucial solo block at the end of the first set, and Mason had 10 kills. Lexi Grant added 11 assists, and Mariah Young had 10 service receptions.
Bucksport head coach Ron Gross said his team made a few too many mistakes, most of which came during Ellsworth’s win in the second set.
“It’s some little things that cost us, but we’ll get them fixed, and we’ll get there,” Gross said. “I was really impressed with Ellsworth’s serves. They have a lot of great hitters.”
The regular season is now complete for both teams. Both will participate in the Class B playoffs on Saturday, and it’s likely that Ellsworth’s game will be against the Washington Academy Raiders or Woodland Dragons.
“Both are very good teams that have given us tough games this season,” Ranger said. “It’s not going to be easy to beat either of them, but we’ve got a good team that’s really confident.”