Cony’s Zainab Al Braihi returns a ball during a match against Brunswick last season in Augusta. Kennebec Journal file photo by Andy Molloy

There’s a brand new feel to the 2019 high school volleyball season. And it extends beyond the record.

A new program enters the varsity ranks this season, while the area’s most productive squad from last year has a new coach, and an almost-new roster.

After two years in the junior varsity ranks, Nokomis jumps into full varsity play this fall. Like their fellow area teams and soon-to-be rivals, Gardiner and Cony, the Warriors will be playing in Class B.

And, Nokomis head coach Julie Moulton said, numbers will be no issue for the program.

“We have 27 girls on the team, 12 of which have been here since the beginning of the program,” Moulton said via email last week. “Many of these girls have also played winter club volleyball for the past two years as well.”

Like any new program, the goals for the Warriors this season are fairly basic.

“The key to our success this year will be the continuity of our players, and their love and dedication to the sport,” Moulton said.

The area’s most successful team last season was Gardiner, which finished with an 8-7 record and its first trip to the playoffs in program history. However, this year the Tigers will be almost completely reloaded. Tiffany Grover takes over as head coach from Maitland Hallett, who headed the program through its infancy in varsity play.

The Tigers were also veteran-heavy last season, but graduated 12 seniors from the roster. Thankfully for Grover, 14 new players are stepping in, so numbers will not be a problem. But growing pains can always present itself for a young team and a new coach.

Still, Grover remained optimistic.

“I think we’re going to have a great season,” Grover said. “This team has a lot of potential to do some really great things, and we’re looking pretty good so far.”

Cony — which finished last season with a 1-13 record — will be the most experienced group returning this season, and could be a strong competitive squad in Class B. Now that the Rams have become acclimated to second-year coach Lindsey Morin, the team is changing up some of its offensive concepts to be more aggressive toward the net. Morin said the Rams have had a strong preseason, and have had a good rhythm going in practice.

“We’re looking like a well-oiled machine,” Morin said.

Nokomis will get a taste of its new rivalry next week, kicking off its inaugural campaign by hosting Gardiner on Monday and Cony on Sept. 13. Cony and Gardiner begin their seasons against each other this Friday, and meet again on Oct. 12.

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