Sarah Kiley (21) of Brewer High School delivers a serve during a recent JV volleyball match. Witches teammate Riley Umel (20) and line judge Andy Maxsimic look on. Credit: Courtesy of Dave Utterback

Bella Tanis and Sarah Kiley always enjoyed playing volleyball with their friends in the summer, but never expected to play it at Brewer High School.

That’s because volleyball usually is played in the fall, at the same time as their chosen sport, soccer.

When the volleyball season was pushed from fall to early spring as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, they both jumped at the chance to play volleyball.

They are having a blast playing for the Brewer JV team.

“I don’t have any problem being a senior on the JV team,” Kiley said. “I’m getting to play a lot of minutes and I’m really enjoying it.

Kiley and Tanis are among hundreds of girls across the state who are playing overlapping sports this spring.

Kiley also is on the softball team and is a partner with the Unified basketball team after playing basketball last winter. Tanis is on the track and field team and is coming off swim season.

“The atmosphere is awesome,” said Tanis, a sophomore. “Coach [Rich Nutter] and all the players have been very supportive.”

Nutter said players like Tanis and Kiley, who had never previously played volleyball, have brought new energy and enthusiasm to the program.

“Coach makes it really fun for us,” Kiley said. “I think we’ve all adapted well. We’ve picked up the basic techniques.”

Tanis admits she has been surprised at how well they have adjusted to the new sport.

Even though she is having a great time, Tanis said when things get back to normal and volleyball returns to being a fall sport, she will stick with soccer.

Girls who participate in other spring sports such as lacrosse and tennis also are giving volleyball a try.

“Some days I can’t make it to both, but the coaches are really understanding,” Tanis said.

Nutter said athletic administrators like Brewer’s Dave Utterback have done an outstanding job arranging practice schedules so the athletes can make it to two practices on the same day.

“Everyone has to be flexible for the kids,” longtime Mount Desert Island High School athletic director Bunky Dow said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

Playing multiple sports during the same season is not unusual.

Some Class C and Class D schools wouldn’t be able to offer certain sports if they didn’t allow athletes to participate in two sports in the same season.

It is not uncommon for athletes to go from the soccer field to cross country practice on the same day.

Larger schools like Brewer and Mount Desert Island don’t allow it under normal circumstances.

“Because this is an overlapping of the ‘wedge season,’ we are managing the two-sport conflict for 12 softball players and two girls involved in track,” Utterback said, referring to the current season between the winter and spring campaigns that emerged because of the pandemic.

The girls don’t mind playing two sports in the same season.

“A part of me wished volleyball was in a different season [so she could play it],” Kiley said.

She observed that volleyball is different compared to soccer and basketball as there isn’t nearly as much running. And the games are shorter.

“We had a game against Bucksport that took 37 minutes,” Kiley said.

She has time between practices to get some of her schoolwork done and said time management is key in juggling sports and academics.

At MDI, seven of its 14 softball players play volleyball. Dow has implemented a rule that prohibits athletes who have a volleyball match from participating in a practice on the same day.

Volleyball takes priority because it is nearing the end of the season, with the playoffs starting next week. Spring sports recently began preseason and games aren’t scheduled until after volleyball ends.

Mark Babin, the athletic administrator at Nokomis High in Newport, said its coaches and players have adapted to the situation.

Ellsworth athletic director Josh Frost isn’t at all surprised by the enthusiasm and energy the athletes are exhibiting while handling the challenges of playing two sports simultaneously.

“Remember, last year at this time, they were sitting around doing nothing [due to the coronavirus],” Frost said.

Dow said he observed the depression that set in among high school athletes when they weren’t able to participate in sports.

“Now, they have a little extra hop in their step,” said Dow, who believes it is worth revisiting the policy that prevents athletes from playing two sports in the same season.

Nutter said for coaches, it has been a challenge having so many players who have never played volleyball before.

“You spend a lot of time teaching the fundamentals,” he said. “You have players at various levels.

“Hopefully, they’re all having fun.”