OAKLAND — It’s been a remarkable year for the Messalonskee volleyball team — one that you perhaps wouldn’t expect from any group participating in only its third year of a varsity sport.

There’s now another piece of history to go along with it after the Eagles won their first playoff match in program history Saturday. Still-unbeaten Messalonskee claimed a 3-0 (25-17, 25-17, 25-12) victory over Ellsworth in the Class B quarterfinals to advance to face Yarmouth or Falmouth in the semis.

“It feels absolutely amazing,” said Messalonskee senior libero and captain Kaitlyn Burbank. “It’s kind of unbelievable. This whole season, whether we’re playing good or playing bad, we just keep fighting and keep on going. Our momentum just always kicks in. It’s really great.”

After No. 3 Messalonskee (15-0) took the first three points to open the match, Ellsworth rallied back, winning seven of the next 10. Yet with the opening set tied at 12 apiece, Messalonskee went on a 5-0 run, and although Ellsworth fired back with three straight points, the home team scored the next six to win the set.

Messalonskee went on an even bigger run in the second set, which was tight early with neither team leading by more than two points until midway through the game. Trailing 12-11, Dan Juilli’s team went on a 12-2 run to break the game open as sixth-ranked Ellsworth (7-9) didn’t recover until it was too late.

“We sometimes start really slowly, but we always find a way to finish hard,” said Juilli, in his first season as Messalonskee’s head coach. “I’m not even sure (those slow starts) had as much to do with us as it did with how well Ellsworth played. They played so well, and they gave us a game.”


It didn’t take nearly as long for Messalonskee to take a commanding lead in the third set. Trailing 4-3, the home team scored the next 10 points in the biggest run for either team all morning. Ellsworth fought back to pull the score to 15-10, but Messalonskee quickly established a double-digit lead and cruised to the win.

Burbank and Ava Perrino had a team-high five aces for Messalonskee with the former adding three digs. The Eagles also got five kills and two blocks from Kyra Cummings, three kills and five digs from Keira Goldsmith, 14 assists and four digs from Elise MacDonald and four digs and six blocks from Kris Parker.

In the past two seasons, Ellsworth might have been able to ride its resilience to at least one set win in such a match. While the visitors certainly had their moments Saturday, they ultimately didn’t come all that close to doing so against a Messalonskee team that’s still yet to lose a set all year.

“We’ve had a lot of skill training the past three years, so this year, we’ve been able to work on some harder plays and different sets,” Burbank. “Our team bond is never like it was before. We’re so connected, and you can tell the difference between when a team plays as a team or plays as six different players on the court.”

The atmosphere was a fitting one for such a milestone win in a young Messalonskee program’s history. Fans of both teams packed the bleachers, especially on the home side as the blue-and-white faithful were boisterous in support of their team — not that Messalonskee players and coaches have come to expect anything less.

“It was awesome (to see them supporting us like that),” Juilli said. “We have great support from our fans, and it’s been like that all year. We travel well, and we know we’re probably going to be traveling again next week, so hopefully, those fans will go with us.”

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.