AUGUSTA — The city of Augusta is far from a barren wasteland.

But if you broke out a map of schools with high school volleyball programs in Maine, Cony may as well be right next to Santa’s Workshop in the North Pole. Most of all Class A and Class B programs reside in the southern half of the state, particularly in York and Cumberland counties.

Knowing this, Cony players Sarah Caron and Lauren Coniff decided to do something about it. In an effort to improve their own skills and bring back tips they learned to their teammates, Caron and Coniff played for a Portland-area travel team for the last two winters. The duo played teams from all over New England, teaming with players from some of the best volleyball programs in the state.

“We’ve done it the past two winters,” Caron said. “On Sundays, we would travel down to Biddeford to practice. Throughout the winter, we would have different tournaments where we would travel. Sometimes we were in (Massachusetts), New Hampshire, around Maine.”

It was no easy trek for the seniors, who would drive an hour south during the winter months just to attend practice. Playing stiff competition, including strong programs in Biddeford, Bonny Eagle and Portland, only added to the challenge for Caron and Coniff.

“It’s intimidating,” Coniff said.

“It’s intense,” Caron added. “Especially being in a travel league where you have to try out to make the team. Playing against schools, most girls will make the team. In the travel leagues, they have to get there, they have to earn that spot. Balls are coming at you much faster, much harder. Everything is faster paced.”

Cony coach Dennis Dacus was thrilled to have members of his team getting extra work in during the offseason. The Rams are coming off a 5-9 season in 2016, falling one spot short of a Class B playoff appearance.

“It’s important in a couple of ways,” Dacus said. “One, they are coming back so much better than the girls that just stay up here or the little summer thing that I do. The girls are seeing as they go, that’s how much better you get. Also, what they’re doing is they are coming back and telling those girls what they’re doing, so not only are they showing them, but they’re telling them. I’m not sure how many girls will get the bug and go down next winter and do that — because Sarah and Lauren are seniors — but I’m hoping some of my younger kids go ‘Hey, why don’t I go down and play some.’ It’s one or two nights a week, a couple of weekends. Even if you’re getting six weekends out of the winter (of practice), you’ve got to be getting better.”

The travel experience, Caron said, gave her and Coniff confidence entering the season.

“I feel pretty good,” Caron said. “I like kind of feeling like I know what I’m doing, and also being able to teach some of the girls around me, how to definitely get better and do some things that will help the team out.”

Dacus said familiarity with the members of the travel team can come in handy during the regular season as well.

“When we go south this year, they’re going to know two or three girls from Falmouth, they’ll know two or three girls from Yarmouth, Cape (Elizabeth),” Dacus said. “They know that they are as good — or better, in some cases — than the girls we’re playing against. They’ve got to be more confident. Transitioning that to four or five (teammates) that play a lot, is the key.”

It’s the type of proactive approach — and the type of confidence — that could springboard the Rams into the playoffs, even a strong playoff push.

“It’s pretty much the same team that we had last year,” Coniff said. “I think we’ll be strong this year.”

Dave Dyer — 621-5640

ddyer@centralmaine.com

Twitter: @Dave_Dyer