BAR HARBOR — A tough loss recently left Corey Papadopoli knowing exactly where his team needed to improve.
Following a four-set Senior Night defeat Sept. 23 against Hampden Academy, Papadopoli, head coach of the Mount Desert Island volleyball team, had one major takeaway: Although the Trojans played hard in the four-set loss, there were moments in which the team lost its focus in a number of key situations.
“There are times when we get in a position of saying, ‘All right, we’re there already; we don’t have to keep working,’” Papadopoli said. “When you lose your focus like that, it changes the whole tenor of the game. That’s something we knew we had to work to avoid.”
In the matches since, MDI has played some of its best volleyball of the season — and, in the Trojans’ most recent home match, the team’s newfound consistency earned it a convincing win a battle of two teams jockeying for playoff positioning.
MDI claimed a three-set victory over Ellsworth in last Wednesday night’s match in Bar Harbor. The Trojans maintained their composure and focus after trailing early in the first set and improved as the night went on in a 25-18, 25-15, 25-13 win.
After MDI scored the first two points of the evening, Ellsworth responded with the next five to put the Trojans in a bit of a hole in the early going. Yet MDI fought back with 11 of the next 13 points to pull ahead 13-7 and maintained leads of 5-8 points down the stretch to cement a first-set win.
MDI’s focus remained evident in the second set as the Trojans rolled out to a 14-5 lead and didn’t let the visitors within fewer than seven points. MDI then took a 9-3 lead in the third set and responded to a 4-0 spurt by Ellsworth with a 16-6 run to close out the match with its biggest win of the night.
“In these last two, like you said, we’ve really just turned it on and played good volleyball,” said Papadopoli, whose team had previously defeated Nokomis by a similar score (25-14, 25-13, 25-19) last Saturday. “You can tell by how finished tonight that we’re going in the right direction. We had a bit of a rough start, but now we have momentum on our side.”
Addy Boyce recorded 10 aces and 20 assists for MDI, which also got four aces, eight kills and four digs from Bailey Goodell. Also contributing for the Trojans were Maddy Ford (four aces, three kills and four digs) and Emma Giustini (two aces, two kills, two assists and three digs).
MDI followed its win over Ellsworth with another key win Tuesday against Brewer. The Trojans (6-3) won the first two sets by two points each, dropped the third and fourth sets and fought back to win the fifth-set tiebreaker in a 30-28, 25-23, 11-25, 18-25, 15-9 victory over the Witches (6-4) at Brewer High School.
Boyce and Goodell had 12 kills apiece against Brewer with the former also adding four aces, 26 assists and five digs. MDI also got three aces, six kills and 12 digs from Emma Giustini and five kills and four digs from Lexi Tozier.
“I thought we started out strong and finished two tough first sets that could have gone either way,” Papadopoli said of the win at Brewer. “We then got a bit sloppy on defense in the next two sets and gave away too many easy points, but luckily, the team got pumped for the fifth set and came out firing. They had their best hitting in the last set and played to win.”
MDI will face Washington Academy (8-0) at 6 p.m. tomorrow, Oct. 6, in East Machias. The Trojans will host George Stevens Academy (10-1) at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 8, and Narraguagus at 6 p.m. next Tuesday, Oct. 12.