BAR HARBOR — The 2018 season was one of new faces for the Mount Desert Island High School volleyball program, and the school’s junior varsity team was at the heart of the changes.
Following the 2017 season, both the varsity and JV programs made coaching changes. Richard Grant left the post after one season as head coach of the varsity squad, and Michael Curry stepped down after three years as coach of the JV squad.
At the varsity level, MDI brought back Corey Papadopoli, the team’s head coach from 2011-16. For the JV position, the Trojans looked to fill the position with another former leader: Kirk Ritter.
Ritter, a Southwest Harbor resident, coached the MDI JV team previously before stepping aside following the 2013 season. Yet when the position became open once again after four seasons away from the sport, he decided it was time to throw his hat back in the ring.
“I knew Michael was stepping aside, and it just felt like the timing was right to come back,” Ritter said. “It was a really great experience, and I’m more than glad I did it.”
In Ritter’s return season, MDI posted a record of 8-6. That marked the second straight year the Trojans improved in the win column and also marked the team’s best finish since going 12-2 in 2014.
Seven members of last year’s JV squad were promoted to the varsity level for 2018. Yet even though only three players — Olivia Gray, Isabella Ross and Nevaeh Warren — returned for MDI, the team still powered past the majority of its opponents.
“Hard work means more than anything else at the JV level, and working hard is something this team certainly did,” Ritter said. “My job as the coach is to make sure the fundamentals get better throughout the season, and the girls’ effort and willingness to learn made it that much easier and ended up bringing us a lot of overall success as a team.”
Members of the MDI JV team attended every varsity match, both home and away. That helped the group build a strong team culture, which the Trojans carried onto the floor.
“I think this group established that culture of a close-knit [team] inside and outside of volleyball right away,” Ritter said. “The girls were all very good with the team-building and bonding stuff.”
The Trojans had two notable comebacks this season, one at home against Ellsworth and the other on the road against Windham. In both cases, MDI came back to earn tiebreaker wins after dropping the first set.
“I think the biggest thing about this team was that none of the girls ever got discouraged when something went bad,” Ritter said. “It would’ve been easy for any team to fold under that pressure in those two games, but they found a way and fought right back.”
Members of this year’s JV team were Heather Finger, Melody Springer, Ruby Mahoney, Violet Ho, Isabella Ross, Maddy Ford, Leah Carroll, Olivia Gray, Regitze Jacobsen, Elizabeth Jones, Acadia Jones and Nevaeh Warren. The Trojans also had an assistant coach, Julia Christie.