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Maine East deny Dons with seven point surge

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Sevens were wild in Maine East’s non-conference matchup against Notre Dame.

After being down as many as four points late in set three, Maine East closed out the game with seven straight points to defeat Notre Dame 21-25, 25-15, 25-22 to claim their seventh win of the season.

Having lost five starters from last years regional championship team to graduation, Maine East has had to roll out a brand new starting lineup this season, which featured two sophomores.

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“We have seven seniors, but only one got significant playing time for us last year,” said Maine East coach Jon Kulesza. “It’s certainly going to be a roller coaster ride for us but our youth is also very talented and the ceiling is high.”

The relative inexperience showed early on as Notre Dame jumped out to a 7-1 lead, six of those points coming from¬†Maine East’s own mistakes.

Sophomore Brian Yoo (18 kills) did his best help Maine East pull within one midway through the opening set, but another flurry of errors allowed Notre Dame put it away 25-21.

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“Brian Yoo is an athletic specimen,” said Kulesza. “If he keeps working he’s going to be truly dominant. He was dominant today, but if he keeps working and keeps improving, he is going to be a force in the CSL.”

The multitude of attacking errors in the opening frame, brought upon a setter change as JP Padillo entered the fold to help right the ship.

Almost immediately, Maine East looked like a completely different team as they raced out to a 12-4 lead and cruised to a 25-15 set two win, racking up 15 kills in comparison to Notre Dame’s four.

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“What I liked about JP tonight is he made the hitters better. He gave them some volleyballs they could handle so our athletes could go get them,” said Kulesza. “David [Bobila] is a great setter but he just struggled with pushing the ball up and out tonight which forced out hitters into tough situations.”

Although Maine East thoroughly dominated set two, they were unable to carry that momentum into the final frame.

Both teams battled back and forth and were tied up at 17 a piece, until a missed serve by Maine East prompted a late run by Notre Dame to take a seemingly commanding 22-18 lead.

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Needing a quick turnaround, Maine East finally got the side out they desperately needed off a Notre Dame hitting error, bringing Padillo to the service line.

With still quite a bit of work to do, Padillo calmly hit his zones, rattling off seven straight points, capped off with a Brian Yoo kill to complete the comeback and give Maine East the three set victory to improve to 7-1 on the season.

“It’s a nice start and the last two wins we’re against sectional opponents which was nice for us,” said Kulesza. “We know the competition will get more difficult, so 7-1 is great but we know some humbling moments are going to come but that’s why we have to keep working and be positive.”

Padillo finished the night with 25 assists and 3 aces, while Yoo’s 18 kill performance was complimented by Andreas Kotsifas who added 16 kills of his own.

Maine East will have no days off as they have a rematch against Niles West, Wednesday evening at 6:00.

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