AUGUSTA — It was going to be the first varsity season for the Messalonskee volleyball team. And senior Kristen Dube was thinking it was over before it started.

“Oh, definitely. That came into question this summer,” she said. “And then when the rules came out from the MPA saying that football and volleyball weren’t going to be able to happen, I really did think that there was no way we were going to be able to play.

“So this is really cool that we get to at least do something.”

What they get to do is take the indoor sport outdoors, onto courts of different surfaces. At Cony, where Messalonskee lost to the Rams 3-2 Monday evening, it’s a flat grass surface. At Edward Little, it’s sand. And at each location, there are new factors to deal with — wind, sun, varying net heights — that present a change from the customary inside game.

It’s a plan B, but for players who didn’t think they’d have a sport to play this season, volleyball is still volleyball.

“I’m grateful that we have the ability to play outside,” Cony senior Brooklynn Merrill said. “It was really disappointing going into this season. It was looking like we weren’t going to have one.”

It is a change, though, and it takes some getting used to. Monday’s match was Cony’s third of the season, and the Rams players said they’re still acclimating to the varying elements that come with playing outdoors.

A Cony volleyball player hits the ball to teammates during a game against Messalonskee on Monday in Augusta. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

“We do a lot of diving in this sport, and on a court you dive and you slide,” Merrill said. “On grass, you dive and you stop. … And there’s some uneven spots in the grass, which they thankfully covered with some dirt.”

A different net also changes the game up front.

“Our net is a lot lower than it is normally, so we have to take into consideration that other (teams’) nets are going to be different than ours,” Cony senior Madison Hodgdon said. “Outside we don’t have a crank and inside we do, so it’s completely different, the net and how you can play off the net.”

There’s also the wind, which can pick up and affect the direction of the ball, and the sun, which can make it difficult to play it.

“Those two things are exactly what’s made the biggest difference for our girls,” Cony coach Lindsey Morin said. “For outdoor sports, (the sun) is no big deal, but it’s not something we’re used to. And the wind, you serve a ball and it’s served beautifully, and you just watch it sort of shift over. It’s a change, but we’re adjusting and getting used to it. And weather in Maine is never the same every day, anyways.”

Pia Cellamare, a Messalonskee co-coach along with Jennifer Croft and Lisette Bordes, backed Morin’s point about the weather.

“It’s cold,” she said. “And it’s getting a little windy, and these are all factors. They’re used to digging for a ball and sliding across the floor and getting it and not getting stuck in the grass.”

A Messalonskee volleyball player reaches for the ball during a game against Cony on Monday in Augusta. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

The open space can also make for a less intense feeling than the one that comes with playing in a tight gym with spectators around.

“Indoor, you just feel more comfortable,” Cony junior Zainab Albraihi said. “When you’re playing inside, you’re hyped up and everything, ready to go. But when you’re outside, you just kind of have that lack of motivation to play. That’s for me. But it’s just a whole different environment.”

Players prefer the indoors game that they’re accustomed to, but they said they’re learning to enjoy the different feel to the sport that comes from being outdoors.

“It’s kind of cool. It’s like a different experience, a new thing,” Dube said. “I like it. I like that it’s outdoors, honestly.”

“I think that it kind of gives it a different flair,” Messalonskee senior Maddie Card said. “It makes it more fun and more interesting.”

Messalonskee will have to play catch-up this season. The Eagles shut down their season last month, thinking the sport was canceled, and didn’t even hold a practice before going to Cony to play.

After two years as a club program, however, the players are ready for whatever bumps come with the varsity level.

“It’s not ideal. We want to be inside, having our first varsity season,” senior Paige Meader said. “But I think right now, with everything going on, the fact that we are able to play and have one last time to play with all of our teammates is all we really want.”

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.