Gardiner’s Lizzie Gruber gets ready for a smash during a volleyball match against Brunswick on Wednesday in Brunswick. Eli Canfield/The Times Record

BRUNSWICK — It’s been a unique “tweener” season for volleyball players across the state who find themselves in the middle of a five-week, 10-game season placed in between the winter and spring high school sport seasons. 

For Gardiner, which earned a 3-1 victory over the Brunswick/Mt. Ararat co-op team on Wednesday night by a score of 25-16, 24-26, 26-24, 25-21, it is picking right up where it left off after having a shortened outdoor fall season in October and November. 

“I think that we had some time in the fall to work on our chemistry and get better,” said Gardiner junior Emily Folsom.  “We’ve tried to keep the same energy out on the court that we did in the fall, which has translated into good results.”

The Tigers picked up a 3-1 victory over the Dragons (1-4) on Monday, and have now swept the season series between the two sides. 

Brunswick’s Elizabeth Putnam goes in for a dig during a volleyball match against Gardiner on Wednesday in Brunswick. Eli Canfield/The Times Record

“It helps to play a team twice in the same week,” added Folsom. “It helps us get a better idea of their strengths and weaknesses that we can try and expose in the second match.”

It was a hard fought effort for Brunswick/Mt. Ararat on Wednesday, which is still finding its way under first-year head coach Seth Hartman.

“We’re really just trying to get into it,” said senior Jaden Lohr. “There are times where we have a good stretch and our energy is high, but now we have to work on maintaining that energy throughout the match.”

If the teams were rusty to begin the season, they didn’t show any signs of it on Wednesday. Despite the 3-1 scoreline, each set was competitive, with long rallies and intense moments defining the match. 

“We played a lot better today than our last match (Monday) against these guys,” added Lohr. “We showed a lot of perseverance and played as hard as we could, which is all you can ask for when going up against a good team like Gardiner.”

The Gardiner squad is utilizing the opportunity to have this season as a way to get better as they look ahead to what they hope will be as normal of a fall season as possible.

“We don’t necessarily have a goal for this current schedule of matches that we have,” Folsom said. “I just think we all want to continue to get better and work with Coach (Tiffany) Grover since a lot of us will be back in the fall.”

Gardiner’s Emily Folsom prepares to serve during a volleyball match against Brunswick on Wednesday in Brunswick. Eli Canfield/The Times Record

On Wednesday, the Tigers showed once again why they are one of the better teams in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference, but it wasn’t without a fight from the Dragons, who went on four separate runs of six consecutive points or more.

“That just attests to our mentality and our skill level,” said Lohr. “While we know there’s nothing at the end of the season, we still are giving it our all on each night and want to win each time we step on the court.”

After a first set in which the Tigers took care of business, the Dragons fought back and evened the match up at one set apiece by ending the set on a 6-0 run.

The Tigers punched back, rallying at the end of the third to take the important 2-1 advantage to the fourth set. 

In the fourth, Gardiner jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead, but the Dragons went on one of their runs to make the score 6-4. After a back and forth affair, the Tigers stretched their lead to seven and survived a scare on the road.

“When we have fun with each other, we play our best,” added Folsom. “We definitely had some fun out there tonight.”

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