A Messalonskee volleyball player reaches for the ball during a an Oct. 5 game in Augusta. Messalonskee will finally have its debut as a varsity program, as the Maine Principals’ Association announced last week plans for a 10-game indoor volleyball schedule will move forward, starting Feb. 22. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal file photo

At last, some good news.

That was the sentiment shared by area volleyball coaches, who recently learned an indoor season would begin Feb. 22.

“I was super excited when I found out,” Gardiner coach Tiffany Grover said. “We had been told (a season could happen) possibly in the spring, but with everything going on, you just never know. It was kind of just a waiting game.”

Coaches acknowledge they are scrambling to prep for a ‘tweener’ season, one that is squeezed between winter and spring, after the Maine Principals’ Association announced plans for an indoor season would move forward.

Plans include a 10-match regular season, with regional competition. The regular season is scheduled to run from March 5 to April 9, with possible league and regional playoffs to follow. No spectators will be allowed to watch matches, and players will be required to wear masks.

For Gardiner, a regional schedule would ensure matches against rival Cony, as well as Messalonskee and Nokomis.

“We love playing against Cony, they’re a great rival,” Grover said. “We’ve formed a pretty great relationship with them, just because this fall, we were one of the only two schools playing grass volleyball (in the area). We definitely bonded and experienced that together, so it will be awesome seeing them again inside on the court.”

The MPA announced in September that it could not sponsor indoor volleyball or football in the fall because of coronavirus safety concerns. Many volleyball teams decided to hold outdoor practices and matches on makeshift courts. Cony, Gardiner and Messalonskee all competed outside in the fall.

“Overall, it was a good experience,” Cony coach Lindsey Morin said after the fall season. “Obviously, anything and everything that we could do was different from the norm. But we made the most of it. Being outside, it was nice, getting some fresh air… I think the girls were really happy to have something to hold on to, not knowing that we (might) have a tweener season, or a spring season or nothing at all. We were really happy that so many girls stayed with the program instead of switching to different sports. We made it as normal as we could. We still did our awards, still tracked our stats and did everything we normally would to make it as meaningful for the team as possible.”

A Cony volleyball player returns a serve during an Oct. 5 game against Messalonskee in Augusta. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

The tweener season is especially beneficial for Messalonskee, as it launches a new varsity program. The Eagles had previously played as a junior varsity program.

“We’re super excited,” Messalonskee co-coach Pia Cellamare said. “We’re still trying to figure out the logistics. We haven’t even really heard much, to be honest, about what’s going on with the gym, I’m guessing there’s (no more than) 50 people in the gym at one time. So, we haven’t even gotten down to the nitty gritty.”

One potential hiccup with late volleyball season is that it will overlap a little with the end of winter sports. Basketball and skiing teams could potentially be competing into March, meaning some volleyball players could face a conflict.

Cellamare said she isn’t concerned about a lack of players for the start of the season. In fact, with such high interest in the program, cuts may even have to be made before matches begin.

“We’re just trying to figure out tryouts, because we’ve got quite a few girls signed up,” Cellamare said. “(Last fall), we didn’t really have time to have tryouts, we didn’t have time to do it. We’re going to actually have to do it, because we can’t carry them all (on the team). It’s going to be interesting, for sure. It’ll be a really short tryout, and a short season. But we’re definitely excited, the girls are really excited. They’re just happy to have a chance to play some real games inside, for sure.”

Added Grover: “It’s been almost a year since we’ve been able to be inside. I think it will definitely be, probably an adjustment, I’d say. But they had to get acclimated to playing on the grass quickly. Literally, within a moment’s notice, we were out of the gym and outside. They did it so well, I think it’ll be just the same going back inside. They’ll just be happy to be on their court again and I think it’ll come pretty naturally back to them.”

 

Dave Dyer — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Dave_Dyer

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