Gorham volleyball coach Emma Tirrell needed just two words to describe her feelings after the Maine Principals’ Association announced Thursday the sport was postponed this fall.

“Incredibly disappointing,” said Tirrell, who led the Rams to the 2018 Class A state final.

The MPA announced in a joint statement with state officials that COVID-19 safety guidelines for fall high school sports were finalized. Football and volleyball, the only indoor fall sport, will not be offered. The safety guidelines prohibit sports from being competed inside this fall.

“Right now we have 54 girls and when I came in my goal was to make volleyball something really important at Gorham, and I think we’ve done that,” Tirrell added. “Now there are 54 girls with nowhere to go. I hope they hang around until the spring, I hope they hang on.”

Volleyball teams will be able to practice outdoors this fall, if possible, and the MPA also announced it hopes to be able to offer a season in late winter/early spring. However, for volleyball to be played indoors, COVID-19 safety guidelines  would need to be relaxed — something that is far from certain.

“(A spring season) sounds good in the sense that it offers our sport to the girls who maybe don’t play any other sports,” Cony coach Lindsey Morin said. “But I definitely have concerns for — and I know some of my players play — lacrosse or softball. It worries me that they would have to choose one or the other, unless whether they’re talking about overlapping, or (two different spring seasons). Does that mean we’d be (playing) inside on the courts? Because outside in early spring, for everyone, is a pretty tough situation.”

Playing outdoors would be no problem for Cony, which has a new outdoor practice area on campus.

“They dug holes and cemented in four posts, so we can have two nets, side by side,” Morin said. “We’re being creative and figuring out how we can (have volleyball outdoors).

Tirrell, Gorham’s fourth-year coach, said she planned to meet with school athletic director Tim Spear on Friday to discuss fall practices.

Cape Elizabeth coach Sarah Boeckel thought a fall practice season would offer some good news — if it’s allowed. Boeckel said just being able to gather and play together as a team would help her players mentally and physically.

“I understand we are the one indoor sport. But I don’t understand how one sport is safer than another. In soccer you’re just as close to another player. To me, soccer is almost as aggressive as football,” Boeckel said. “But (if) we can gather and play, I’m glad for that. (If) they don’t take that away from us, then that is fantastic.”

Cony volleyball players compete during a practice Thursday at Cony High School. The school set up an outside court as playing indoors is prohibited during the pandemic, according to revised safety guidelines from the Maine Principals’ Association. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Boeckel, whose Capers have played in four of the last six Class B state title matches, added that salvaging a spring season would be ideal.

“I’m very hopeful we’ll be able to do that. I don’t see why not,” she said. “From what I understand other states are shortening the season and having four seasons. A lot of middle schools do that, and kids end up playing four sports.”

Maine joins at least five other states — Rhode Island, Minnesota, New York, Illinois and Washington — that will try for a spring season. Hawaii is planning on a winter volleyball season in January. Vermont is playing volleyball this fall, but all matches will be held outdoors.

Scarborough coach Kim Stoddard said she, too, is holding out hope for a season to be played at some point.

“I just kind of reiterated (to the team) that any chance we get to be together — even if we played outside — that would be new and different,” she said. “And just hoping for the best for the spring. I know my kids will come out and play.”

Falmouth athletic director James Coffey acknowledged the challenges a late winter/early spring season could present.

“Who knows, we could still be dealing with social distancing, we might not find a vaccine by then,” he said. “But the kids are wearing masks currently, and one of the original proposals the MPA put out to allow volleyball season to go on this fall was to have kids wear masks during competition. It’s not ideal, but one thing I’ve got to say. Just this week, seeing the recommendations from the MPA that we’ve put in place to the kids this week, having the kids wear masks to and from practice, during water breaks and when they’re not competing, I’ve got to say that the kids have followed everything to a ‘T.’ There are certainly challenges, but everyone, the kids, the coaches, everyone wants to play so bad, they’re just following it.”

 

Portland Press Herald reporter Deidre Fleming contributed to this report.

 

Dave Dyer — 621-5640

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Twitter: @Dave_Dyer

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