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BAR HARBOR – There was no shortage of doubters when it came to Mount Desert Island’s chances of winning a third straight regional volleyball title this season.
Despite being the reigning two-time Eastern Maine champion, the Trojans were looked at as a middle-of-the-road team after losing nine seniors from last year’s state runner-up squad.
“I was scared to death because I lost my setters and all my offense from last year. Every stat we had, pretty much,” said coach Todd Brophy.
Ah, but what the Trojans hadn’t lost was motivation, desire, and confidence. Oh, and another thing they didn’t lose: Too many matches.
The Trojans not only got back to the East final, they hosted it on the strength of a 14-1 record and the top seeding.
On Wednesday, they showed why they were worthy of that status as they pulled out a roller coaster, momentum-switching, five-set victory over No. 3 Washington Academy of East Machias.
Mount Desert Island outlasted the visiting Raiders 25-20, 25-20, 19-25, 23-25, 16-14 at Parady Gymnasium to earn a third straight trip to the state finals.
The Trojans will face two-time defending state champion Greely of Cumberland Center at 1 p.m. Saturday at Ellsworth High School.
“We’ve heard all this stuff about Greely that they’ve already ordered their T-shirts and stuff,” said defensive specialist/libero Kay Beaudoin, one of only three MDI seniors. “But we’re just going to play hard, and after losing nine seniors and coming this far, we don’t have anything to lose at this point.”
That’s been MDI’s approach all season.
“Nobody picked us to do better than .500, so I was really amazed with how much they’ve accomplished,” Brophy said. “We … had to train new setters and run a totally new offense, but these kids really grew up and became contributors in a hurry.”
In fact, Wednesday evening’s title match was a microcosm of sorts of MDI’s entire season. The Trojans won the first two games fairly efficiently and authoritatively only to watch the Raiders catch fire and use a six-point run in the third game to not only take their first lead of the day, but also turn a 15-14 deficit into a 25-19 victory.
“We’re the comeback kids, I guess. We did that in the semis against Woodland, too,” said WA co-coach Christine Davis.
Sophomore Ashley Tilton led WA’s charge with several kills, blocks, sets, and service points en route to a match-high 17 kills plus five digs and two aces.
The newfound momentum carried over into the fourth game, despite an early 7-3 MDI lead, as WA roared back from an 18-12 deficit to make it 19-19. MDI then won four of the next five points to make it 23-20, but a big block by Stefanie Jones and four straight service points (one on an ace) by Mirissa Huntley (12 digs, four blocks) carried WA to another comeback.
The fifth match was even throughout as neither team led by more than three points. With the score deadlocked at 14-14, MDI sophomore hitter Hannah Adelmann made it 15-14 with her fourth kill of the evening, this one off a WA service, and senior hitter/defender Amy Harrison closed things out with her 21st service point out of 23 serves.
Not bad for a team short on experience, leadership, and proven talent.
“I had them all fill out a survey at the beginning of the year on what they thought they could get out of this season and most put down making the playoffs and have fun,” said Brophy. “One kid said they’d like to see Greely again.”
That one kid was Harrison, who finished with three aces, 11 kills, six digs, a block, an assist, and 25-for-28 on attacks.
“It didn’t matter to us that we lost so many seniors last year, it just matters that we want to win,” she said. “This one was definitely a surprise, but I think I was one of the few who said we’d make it to where we are right now. I had extreme confidence we could make it.”
Sister and sophomore Kelly Harrison was 9-for-13 on serves and 19-for-23 on attacks with six kills, five digs, three blocks and an ace. Adelmann was 9-for-13 serving and 16-for-21 on attacks with eight digs and three assists.
The Raiders, the only team to beat MDI this year, were also paced by Megan Knowles (11 kills, three digs, two assists, one ace) and Kelsey Kurz (match-high 20 assists).
“We just match up really well with them and we don’t dread playing them, we look forward to it,” said Davis. “It’s always fun to play against them.”