Messalonskee’s Keira Goldsmith, left, digs the ball during a Sept. 27 volleyball match in Oakland. Goldsmith teammate Kaitlyn Burbank is shown at the right. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

AUGUSTA — Messalonskee senior Kaitlyn Burbank admits she enjoys educating those around her on the nuances of volleyball, which has seen significant growth in central Maine in the last five years.

“Honestly, it’s fun (to teach volleyball), and I really love it,” she said. “There’s so much to teach to people. Once you get into it, people are very interested about it. They don’t know much about it, so they keep asking questions about it. … It’s a lot of the same questions, but I love explaining it to others.”

And an education on the sport is often needed, as the terminology and statistics vastly differ compared to those kept in other fall sports such as football, soccer, field hockey, golf and cross country. Most sports fans, volleyball players are quick to point out, are familiar with traditional statistics in other sports, including goals, assists, saves and touchdowns.

But in volleyball?

“I love it when people are like, ‘Yeah, I played this sport in gym class,'” Gardiner senior Yana Montell said. “Then I play (a game) with them, and they’re not the same thing at all. … People are familiar with bump, set and spike. But people don’t know what a kill is, what a quick is. Sets have different numbers. That’s not always what people know.”

In volleyball, the most common statistics are kills (a hit to an opponent that can’t be returned), digs (defensive saves played off an opponent’s attacking hit) and aces (serves that aren’t returned).


A bump (an underhand pass designed to keep the ball in the air) is also a common term in the sport.

“The question I’m asked the most is, ‘Do you spike the ball?'” Messalonskee senior Kyra Cummings said. “Well, yes, but that’s not the whole part of a game. I’ll go through (a set-up), where it’s a bump-set-kill, or bump-set-hit type of game. So yes, spiking is involved, but first you have to get a pass, or receive, or a dig. A dig is off of a hit. A receive is off of a serve, and those are both passes.”

Assists, not unlike basketball and hockey, are also recorded, along with blocks. Digs, player agree, are a tough one to describe.

“It’s the difference in an attack,” Burbank said. “A dig is when a player goes up and attacks a ball, so that’s either swinging, or it’s a push. It’s not a serve, or a free ball, where you act like you’re (attacking) the ball and pass it.”

“Terms that are used often are like, bumps (an underhand pass to keep the ball in the air) and hits and spikes, and we call them hits and passes,” added Messalonskee senior Keira Goldsmith. “The different terms is what get people confused a lot.”

Messalonskee (14-0), in its fourth varsity season, finished the regular season third Class B. It will host either No. 6 Gardiner or No. 11 Ellsworth in a state quarterfinal match Saturday. The Eagles won their first Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championship on Monday, topping Gardiner 3-1 at Cony High School in Augusta. Messalonskee is one of the newer central Maine programs, along with Maranacook and Nokomis.


But as the program becomes the next big sport at the Oakland school, players and coaches alike are often asked questions about the sport.

“One of the biggest questions is, ‘who is that person in the different colored jersey?’ That’s always the first question,” Goldsmith said.

Goldsmith is referring to the libero, a position specifically designed and focused for defense. A libero cannot serve as an attacking player.

At times, even coaches need some help.

“Our players are so smart, they sometimes explain (the game) to me,” said Messalonskee head coach Dan Juilli, who was named KVAC Coach of the Year on Monday. “(Messalonskee senior) Elise McDonald, our setter, is one of the smartest volleyball players I’ve ever seen. A lot of times, I’ll go to her and say, ‘Elise, can this happen?’ And she’ll be like, ‘Yeah, of course.'”

Gardiner’s Lila Anderson, left, and Cony’s Addi Lebel leap for the ball at the net during a Sept. 5 volleyball match in Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“Most of the time I’m asked about rotations and how we move across the court,” added McDonald, the KVAC Player of the Year. “It confuses a lot of people if they don’t play volleyball. Basically, everyone has a designated spot where they’re supposed to play, according to their position. I’m a setter, so I stay on the right side of the court. But sometimes, when we start, I may have to stay on the lefthand side of the court and (service) receive. But as soon as they serve, I can move anywhere I want to on the court, and it doesn’t matter anymore. That can trip a lot of people up.”


Gardiner head coach Tiffany Ouellette tries to keep her explanations simple when explaining the game.

“I always try to explain a bump, set and spike,” Ouellette said. “But when people get a little more advanced (in knowledge), they’ll question the little calls we try to work on.

Despite the confusion, players have no problem continuing to explain — and grow — the game in central Maine.

“A lot of people are taking up an interest in it since we’ve been doing well,” McDonald said. “That’s a lot of fun. I think it’s so awesome that volleyball is gaining more popularity in the state, I think it’s the best thing.”

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