Becca Gideon said when Brewer High School held its first practice as a club volleyball team last season, nobody could control the ball.
“Our goal was to just get it over the net,” the senior said.
The Witches have been fast learners. A little more than a year later, the Witches have a 9-1 record in their first varsity season.
“I wish you could have seen our first couple of practices last year,” said head coach Rich Nutter, who won three state championships in six title game appearances at Woodland High School. “To come from where we were then to where we are now is night and day.”
Brewer was third in the Heal Point standings entering a Wednesday home match against Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor.
“It has definitely been a surprise. We didn’t expect to be this successful,” Gideon said. “But we work hard in practice and coach Nutter is a great coach.”
Nutter said having four players off Brewer’s undefeated Class B state championship softball team has been beneficial. They are senior Jordan Goodrich, junior tri-captain Kathryn Austin, Gideon and junior Kate West.
“There is definitely some carryover. They have been in pressure situations, and we’ve been in a lot of them this year. That gives their teammates confidence because they’ve been there before,” Nutter said.
Gideon said the winning mentality is evident throughout the squad.
Nutter said an early season 3-0 victory over a successful and well-established MDI program was a turning point because it gave the girls confidence.
“We didn’t know what we were doing last year,” Gideon said. “But we did some volleyball camps over the summer and practiced quite a bit. We’ve been able to work together and do pretty well. It’s more fun than I expected.”
The Witches have learned to attack while controlling their hits and understand on-court rotations better.
“He [Nutter] has been patient with us,” junior Grace Robertson said. “There are still some things we don’t know about the game. But he believes in us.”
While there is added pressure in establishing itself as a playoff-caliber team, Brewer continues to build on its early success.
“They work hard in practice, they like each other and they play real team ball. They really work well together as a unit,” Nutter said.
Nutter, Robertson and Gideon said assistant coaches Rebecca Enman and Shannan Fotter have been valuable assets. Fotter played Division I volleyball at the University of Maine.
There are six players on the court in volleyball, and Nutter said he has a nine- to 10-player rotation. He also has four reserves and 12 players in the JV program.
Gideon and fellow senior tri-captain Ashley Tanguay are the two most versatile players on the team, according to Nutter.
“They can do it all: set, hit, dig and block,” Nutter said.
Chilean exchange student Javiera Mora has played a vital role as the setter.
“She can put the ball on a dime,” Nutter said.
Austin is an outside hitter and prolific point-producer, Robertson is an exceptional passer from the back row, and Goodrich plays in the back row and one spot up front and hates to make a mistake, Nutter said.
Sophomore front-line player Zoey Rackler has great leaping ability, senior defensive specialist Jaeda Rogers is quick in the back row and junior Sydney Blain has been productive as a designated server. Sydney’s twin sister, Caroline, is also a designated server.
Senior Katherine Dalton, juniors West and Grace Millan, and sophomore Mia Cattan provide depth coming off the bench.
Brewer athletic administrator Dave Utterback said the addition of varsity volleyball has been a positive development.
“I knew we would be pretty good because our girls are athletic and they have character. Rich has done a great job,” Utterback said. “We get really enthusiastic crowds.”
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