Gardiner’s Lizzy Gruber (44) celebrates a point against Messalonskee in an Oct. 11 volleyball match in Oakland. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

If one word could sum up central Maine’s high school volleyball season, “improvement” would likely win out.

Gardiner, Cony and Messalonskee all improved upon their 2021 records this fall, with Gardiner (16-1) reaching the first state final in program history before losing in the Class B final to Yarmouth, which captured its fourth consecutive title.

Not bad for a program that didn’t join the varsity ranks until 2017.

“Just looking back, the girls and I reminisced a lot because I’ve had them since they were freshmen,” Tigers coach Tiffany Ouellette said. “Just to see where we started, not even making a playoff game, to last year making a semifinal game to this year making a state championship game was just incredible. It’s been such a journey for these girls.”

Ouellette was named Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference co-coach of the year with Messalonskee’s Jennifer Croft.

Gardiner went undefeated for the second straight regular season and lost only five sets total before Yarmouth’s 3-0 sweep in the championship match.


Lizzy Gruber, Gardiner’s 6-foot-4 sensation, was named the KVAC player of the year for the second straight season; she shared this year’s honors with Messalonskee’s Candace Pelotte. Emily Grady, Yana Montell and Grace Plourde joined Gruber on the all-KVAC first team, while Kylie Boardman earned a second-team nod.

“It was nice this year because we had more hat just one or two girls who can play. I had six girls on the court who could play, which is great when you’re on offense and you don’t have to reply on one person,” Ouellette said. “Those girls form last year really stepped up to improve themselves.” 

Messalonskee went 12-3, a four-game improvement over its 2021 mark, good enough to to earn a first-round bye in the Class B playoffs before falling to York in the quarterfinals.

Pelotte, a senior outside hitter, set the tone, coach Jennifer Croft said.

“(Pelotte) was definitely our go-to girl as far as front row, back row, serving,” Croft said. “She had our most aces, she had our most kills, she had our most digs. Stat-wise, she was on top of our team. She was a good leader on the court at well; just steady.”

Elise McDonald, a setter whom Croft described as “our quarterback, making the choices where to go,” joined Pelotte on the KVAC first team, while outside hitter Kyra Cummings and libero Alivia Johnston were second-team selections.


The Eagles have had a varsity program only since 2019, and Croft has been pleased with the progress her players have made in such a short time. With no local feeder program, most of the athletes are new to the sport as freshmen.

Messalonskee’s Candace Pelotte (13) tries to block a shot from Gardiner’s Kylie Boardman in an Oct. 11 volleyball match in Oakland. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“I told our girls, ‘I would have loved to have videotaped our first practice (freshman year), and then show you our last,’ and it’s just amazing to see the growth they’ve had (over four years,”  Croft said.

Cony improved to 9-7 following a 6-9 season in 2021. The Rams swept Greely in the Class B first round before losing to Yarmouth in the quarterfinals.

Senior Avery Theriault was a first-team all-KVAC selection, while teammates Isabella Coco (defensive specialist, 94% serving percentage) and Jasmyne Mills (outside hitter) made the second team. Ashley Tobias was denied an all-star nod, but Cony coach Lindsey Morin singled her out as a strong defensive force on the court.

Theriault led the Rams in aces and kills and second in digs.

Cony’s Avery Theriault hits a shot during an Oct. 18 match against Gardiner in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“She’s a wonderful young woman and a leader on and off the court and being a role model for the underclassmen that wanted to play and see her intensity,” Morin said. 

Cony loses seven seniors, but Morin is optimistic a group of eager, talented freshmen and sophomores can fill the void.

Nokomis (3-11) missed the Class B payoffs this year, but placed four athletes — Rachel Creswell, Sydney Graves, Alexis Grignon and Ava LePage — on the KVAC all-academic team. The Warriors defeated Cony, Hampden Academy and Brewer in the regular season.

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