GARDINER — As surprises go, there weren’t too many of them Thursday night.

The No. 2 Gardiner Tigers remained unbeaten with a three-set sweep of No. 15 Lake Region in a Class B girls volleyball prelim, some 72 hours after similarly sweeping the Lakers to put the wraps on the regular season on Monday.

The Tigers will likely play again Saturday against an opponent to be determined.

“It’s go big or go home,” said senior setter Dasey McNeil, who reeled off 20 straight points from the service line in the third set of the 25-9, 25-10, 25-6 victory.

McNeil collected seven aces in the crucial run.

“(McNeil) proved tonight that she’s a great server,” said Gardiner coach Tiffany aGrover, who earned her first playoff victory on the sidelines. “She’s a huge asset to our team. Setters are the most important people on the court. They run the game, they control the game. She does a really great job.

“I kind of threw her into that role last year and she’s taken to it. She’s setting her hitters, and hitters can’t get credit for their kills without the setter.”

Gardiner’s Lizzy Gruber hits the ball against Lakes Region during a volleyball playoff game Thursday in Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The Tigers had an uneven start to the night, locked in a 4-4 contest in the opening set before starting to stretch their legs a bit. Junior Lizzy Gruber started to collect her kills, and Lana Montell and Emily Folsom seized momentum with their service game.

Gardiner (15-0) racked up 10 of the final 11 points in the set to go ahead early on.

“We had a few little things to clean up, but all you have to do is make it to the next round now,” Gruber said. “I think we noticed that we have to build our own energy. We fed off the fact that we had each other. By the third set, we’d built it within ourselves for each other.”

The second set was tight early with Lake Region (4-11) ahead 7-5 after Jo-Hannah Vincent finished off a point. Enter Emily Grady for the Tigers, who heated up her cross-court game to find openings to help create some breathing room and stake the home side out to a commanding 2-sets-to-none lead.

That all set the stage for McNeil, who pounded away at the heart of the Lakers defense to help clinch the victory.

“I look for an open spot,” McNeil said. “Sometimes it’s just sheer luck when it just dribbles over the net, but sometimes there’s a big open spot. During that third set, they kept leaving that back corner wide open. I aimed for that and kept getting those aces, so I just rolled with it.”

Gardiner’s Emily Grady, left, and Yana Montell dig for the ball during a volleyball playoff game Thursday in Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

For a team that dropped only two of the 44 sets they played this season — even after having convincingly disposed of Lake Region days earlier — there was still the question of getting through playoff match.

Gruber thought the Tigers passed the test.

“It’s important,” Gruber said. “To say that we’ve made it this far, it boosts your confidence so much. That’s all we need really.”

“We started a little shaky tonight, but Lake Region played well,” Grover said. “I wasn’t too worried, but of course it’s playoffs and it’s go big or go home right now. You want to make sure you’re playing your best and playing a clean, perfect game.”

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