AUGUSTA — It didn’t come in flawless fashion like all its previous matches this fall, but the Messalonskee volleyball team still accomplished a program first on Monday night.

The Eagles beat Gardiner 3-1 at Cony High School to win the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference title. It’s the first conference title for Messalonskee, which is in its fourth year as a varsity program.

“This is huge,” said Messalonskee senior Elise McDonald. “It just shows all the hard work we’ve done this season and we’re starting to see tangible results. It’s just amazing.”

“It feels pretty good,” Messalonskee head coach Dan Juilli added. “It’s not the (ultimate title) we want, but we’ll take it.”

The Eagles (13-0), who haven’t lost a set during the regular season, found themselves in unfamiliar territory, falling 25-21 to the Tigers in the opening set.

“This is what we needed,” said Juilli, who was named KVAC Coach of the Year. “We needed a loss to regroup, play together and play for each other. They came out and came flying. We’ve been down before in (preseason tournaments), so we knew how to come back from this, and they played the way we knew how to play.”


Messalonskee rallied, picking up 25-13, 25-12 and 25-16 victories in the next three sets to clinch the match and the title. Led by KVAC Player of the Year McDonald, the Eagles took control. McDonald had plenty of help, too, as several Eagles contributed to the victory, including diving saves by junior Sofia Derosby, a well as strong net play by sophomore Kelsie Murray and seniors Keira Goldsmith and Kristina Parker.

Messalonskee’s Kristina Parker, left, and Gardiner’s Lila Anderson compete at the net during the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championship match against Gardiner on Monday night in Augusta. David Leaming photo

Gardiner, the defending KVAC champion, was tough throughout, led by the play of senior Yana Montell.

“I was proud (of the team),” Gardiner head coach Tiffany Ouellete said. “Messo makes us better. They push us, they challenge us, so it’s really good for us… They pressured (Messalonskee) and that’s what we needed to do. That was our game plan, just go in there and be tough on their defense. I think we did a good job of that, to start.”

The win was part of the inaugural KVAC Final Four, with the top four seeds playing a semifinal (best of three sets) and championship round (best of five sets) for the conference crown. Conference all-stars, as well as KVAC player and coach of the year honors were announced between rounds.

Messalonskee, the No. 1 seed, beat No. 4 Hampden Academy 2-0 in the semifinals, while No. 2 Gardiner beat No. 3 Brunswick/Morse/Mt. Ararat 2-1.

“I loved (the Final Four setup),” Ouellette said. “I think it was a very good idea. It’s a more rewarding (outing) for the teams. To be recognized in front of everyone and to be able to win in front of (fans), I think that’s awesome.”

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