WINDHAM — For 17-year-old twins Alexis and Lydia Budroe, this past spring season would have been a crucial time to get scouted by college volleyball coaches.

But that came to a crashing halt when their club season was cut short about halfway through March, when the state went into lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

When the Maine Principals’ Association announced on Sept. 10 that the fall tackle football and indoor volleyball seasons would be delayed until at least the winter or spring, the Windham High School seniors, who both opted for a hybrid model (part-time in-person learning, part-time remote) for schooling this year, were at a loss.

Lydia Budroe prepares to serve during a match against the Falmouth High Yachtsmen last season. Courtesy of Mark Gedicks

“We were hoping that we would at least get some practices going in and some conditioning at the least with the team. It’s very upsetting that we couldn’t even do that,” Alexis Budroe said in an interview last week.

While schools aren’t allowed to have an official season, many have adapted to the MPA’s protocols by holding outdoor, contactless practices.

“Of course, I would have loved to have the season go off normally,” Windham girls’ volleyball coach Chris Cloutier said, “but I think the safety of the kids comes first and their education comes first.”

Cloutier said he’s holding twice-weekly, informal practices on two outdoor courts. About half of those who signed up to play back in the spring – about 17 girls – are participating.

Alexis Budroe and her twin sister, Lydia, are both hoping to play volleyball in college. Above, Alexis during a match against Falmouth High last season. Courtesy of Mark Gedicks

“I’m just glad that we get to go outside and get some touches out on the field,” Lydia Budroe said.

High school football coaches have likewise shifted to the new norm, with many opting to go with a 7-on-7 flag football season.

Matt Perkins has been the Windham High football coach since 2002 and said in his 18 years of experience, student participation on the team gives them structure and focus in school.

“They’re out there socially, communicating with peers and teammates … We’re also not just focusing on football, but also on school and checking on grades and keeping up with classes, so I think that all helps,” he said.

The Eagles will begin 7-on-7 flag football games with other high schools in a few weeks. Since practice began last week, about 50-60 students have been showing up, which is comparable to a regular season, Perkins said.

“I think the kids were just so happy to show up.”

Cloutier, the Windham volleyball coach, said for many of the girls he’s coached over the years, the social aspect of being on a team is important for them.

“For a lot of (the athletes), it’s more or less (the) enjoyment of the sport and (to) be a little bit social … it ends up being sort of a social aspect for them in their daily lives.”

Lydia Budroe agreed that she’s benefited from being on a sports team.

“I feel like it has opened up my personality and changed me and made me a better person through meeting people, finding what my real passion is and helping me decide what I want to do in the future,” she said.

Both she and her sister have been playing volleyball for seven years.

“I think that volleyball personally has offered me several opportunities for college,” Alexis Budroe said. “I feel the same that it has opened me up as a person. (I’ve) made a lot of friends in volleyball.”

The two are still holding out for some semblance of the typically busy college recruiting season come winter, but in the meantime have taken on the task of working with college coaches themselves.

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