New Mount Desert Island High School volleyball Coach Richard Grant instructs MDI junior Delaney Shields during volleyball practice Aug. 28 in Bar Harbor. Grant will coach his first game when the Trojans face off against Calais at home Friday, Sept. 1. ISLANDER PHOTO BY MIKE MANDELL

New volleyball coach sets up for season

BAR HARBOR — As the Mount Desert Island High School volleyball team prepares for what has the makings of a solid season, the Trojans have a new face leading them on the sidelines.

After Corey Papadopoli’s resignation as coach at the end of the 2016 season, Richard Grant took charge of the program. Just a day away from the start of the regular season, he’s made sure MDI hasn’t skipped a beat.

“It’s a good time to be taking over,” Grant said. “Varsity volleyball is getting bigger in Maine, and it’s a perfect time to get into it and help the players and the program reach the next level.”

Grant is a Harrington native and works at The Jackson Laboratory. He played soccer at Narraguagus High School. It wasn’t until his time at the University of Maine at Machias in the late 1990s that he picked up volleyball, but once he did, he never looked back.

“I actually just played pickup, but it took off from there,” Grant said. “One of my best friends from college was a starting center on the women’s team, and I started playing with some of them. I’ve been playing ever since.”

Grant’s passion for the sport led him to become a Maine Juniors coach at the club level, where he oversaw some of the state’s top players. Among the former standouts he’s coached at that level is former Jonesport-Beals middle hitter Caitlyn Coffin, who was named an All-State selection in 2015.

Although Grant enjoyed his time coaching Maine Juniors, he decided he really wanted to coach a high school team. So when it was announced that Papadopoli would be stepping down, he knew it was his chance.

“I’d been wanting to coach varsity for a long time, and I’d also been familiar with the island because I was working at Jackson Lab and some restaurants,” Grant said. “I know a lot of these girls already from coaching their age group, and I think that gives me an advantage even though I’m a new coach.”

This year will be MDI’s first year in Class B after spending 20 years at the Class A level. That move came when the Maine Principals’ Associated voted this spring to create a Class C and reduce Class A from 20 teams to 12.

Yet the move to Class B doesn’t mean the path to a championship will be any easier. Also dropping to Class C are perennial powerhouses such as Greely, Falmouth and Cape Elizabeth, which won a combined five of the past six Class A titles prior to reclassification.

The Trojans, though, return a significant amount of talent from last year’s team. Back are Alexis Clarito, Mackenzie Hanna, Hannah Chamberlain and Julia Watras, who played major roles in MDI’s run to the Class A quarterfinals last season. The team already has enjoyed great success in the preseason, going 4-0 at the Henry Noonan Tournament in Machias over the weekend.

“We have a lot of experience because of how many players there are coming back who have played varsity,” Grant said. “If [the players] can come together as a team and improve our defense, I think they’ll have a great season.”

Grant’s first matchup as coach will be a difficult one. MDI opens its season at home against defending Class B state champion Calais at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 1.

“We’re going to be tested right away, and we have to start off on a high note,” Grant said. “Our team is really motivated, and I’m excited to see what we can do.”

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell is the sports editor at The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander. He began working for The American in August 2016. You can reach him via email at [email protected]

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