When South Portland High volleyball coach Nicole Kane played volleyball at Yarmouth 10 years ago, just one team was expected to win the state championship: Greely. Now that Kane is coaching, she’s glad to see more parity than ever in the sport.

As Maine high school volleyball enters its 20th year, six schools are rolling out new varsity programs, bringing the number to 35. They join four teams that debuted last fall. The vast majority of new teams are in southern Maine, in Class A.

Class B, with 13 teams, has schools based mostly in Downeast Maine. Those championships are still dominated by Washington Academy and Calais.

But in Class A, newer teams are getting good in a hurry. In each of the past three years, a different school has become state champion for the first time.

In 2013, Falmouth won the title; in 2014, Cape Elizabeth went into the playoffs seeded fifth and came out the victor; last year, Scarborough won as the fifth seed.

“When I was in high school Falmouth never had a team, Cape never had a team. It’s really great to see these newer programs, how quickly they’ve grown,” Kane said.

Massabesic, Brunswick, Marshwood, Gardiner, York and George Stevens Academy have started varsity programs. Last year’s new teams were Portland, Deering, Bonny Eagle and Wells.

Many coaches think this year’s Class A state title likely will go to a perennial power, but in the coming years they say it will be any team’s to win.

“With how fast volleyball is growing and how much the girls love the sport and how many are playing on clubs in the offseason, within a few years one of those schools that is only five to six years old taking the state championship? I think the potential is out there,” Kane said.

Greely Coach Kelvin Hasch, who has won eight state titles, believes the future will have dark horses rising up every season.

“I don’t think South Portland is going to be hanging around in the basement for long. I think you give (Kane) another couple of years and they’ll have a powerhouse,” Hasch said. “And I think Deering is a good two to three years away. They’ve got some real players. That’s not a standard brand new team.”

Deering Coach Larry Nichols, who played in men’s leagues for 20 years, tried to start a varsity program at Deering 12 years ago, with little success. When Athletic Director Mel Craig asked him a few years ago to start one, Nichols was thrilled. He ran a club program before the Rams became a varsity team last fall, going 7-7.

Nichols said the team has gone from learning basic skills to raising its game every week.

“When we first started nobody had played before,” he said. “Now it’s ‘What is your role? Where are you supposed to be on the court?’ We have four to five players who played club ball in the offseason.”

Playing its fourth year of volleyball in 2015, Thornton Academy went 12-2 and hosted its first playoff match. The Golden Trojans expect to be back in contention this year, said Coach Corey Huot.

“Because of the success we’ve had, we’re starting to get players transferring from other sports. I think the end of this season, we’ll compete for the playoffs again,” Huot said.

Falmouth Coach Molly Northway, who played at Greely 10 years ago, said there’s definitely a shift happening.

“This year there are probably six teams where it’s anybody’s game,” Northway said.

A change in the Class A schedules may give newer teams even more of a chance to move up in the Heal points. For the first time, teams will play opponents just once. Coaches say it should allow middle-of-the-pack teams more of an opportunity to make the playoffs.

“Biddeford was a really good team last year, but over the course of the season they hadn’t had the (points) because they weren’t playing the best teams. They barely made it to the playoffs. We had a great match against them and they easily could have won,” said Scarborough Coach Jon Roberts.

“There are teams coming up that are a year or two away. What’s cool is nobody has gone back-to-back (in winning the title) in a long time.”


1. Scarborough: Reached its third state final in five years and, as the fifth seed, took home the championship. Ten players return from the state final.

2. Greely: Last year’s Class A state runner-up, the Rangers took the early lead in the state title match before falling to Scarborough. With five starters and 10 players returning, the Rangers may compete for their ninth Class A championship.

3. Falmouth: Nine players return from a state semifinal team, including three starters. The Yachtsmen lost height and will switch to a more defensive game but should be in the mix, seeking a second state title in four years.

4. Yarmouth: After finishing 11-5 in its first year in Class A, Yarmouth is small in size but returns four starters from last year’s quarterfinal team, including two who played on a Class B state title team in 2014.

5. Deering: In just its second year as a varsity team and third with any kind of volleyball squad, Deering is a program on the rise. With strong, athletic players in key positions and a coach who played for 20 years, the Rams could evolve into a top team.

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