Ridgefield celebrates the return of volleyball

Class 2A and 1A fall team sports

RIDGEFIELD — It sounded different, with those push-button electronic whistles that the officials used.

The atmosphere was different, with very few fans, no visiting fans, and the fans that were there not sitting too close together. 

Seats in the team area were spread out, and the few fans allowed to watch the match had to distance themselves as well in the return of high school volleyball in the region. Ridgefield would go on to defeat Mark Morris. Photo by Mike Schultz
Seats in the team area were spread out, and the few fans allowed to watch the match had to distance themselves as well in the return of high school volleyball in the region. Ridgefield would go on to defeat Mark Morris. Photo by Mike Schultz

Even the celebrations were different. No big hugs after spikes. Most of the high-fives were of the “air” variety. 

But once the serve was made, volleyball was volleyball, and it was a triumphant return Tuesday night at Ridgefield High School.

Ridgefield topped Mark Morris in a Class 2A Greater St. Helens League volleyball match. The result mattered less than the actual event. For high school athletics, it was the first traditional team sport league contest in Clark County since last February’s basketball season.

Class 2A and 1A schools in the region are scheduled to play volleyball and girls soccer this week. And on the weekend, football is set for a return. Tuesday’s volleyball match was the lone event among Clark County teams that did not get postponed due to the recent storm that hit the region.

For the Spudders, it was their first volleyball match since Nov. 16, 2019, when they won their second consecutive Class 2A state championship.

“Just being with our team, they are like family,” senior Presley McCaskill said. “Getting to be back with them is amazing and refreshing.”

Alicia Andrew and Natalie Andrew team up to get the block for Ridgefield volleyball Tuesday. Photo by Mike Schultz
Alicia Andrew and Natalie Andrew team up to get the block for Ridgefield volleyball Tuesday. Photo by Mike Schultz

There were other changes during this “volleyball in a pandemic” season. When a Ridgefield player came off the court in a substitution, she gave elbow bumps to teammates and then headed to the hand sanitizer distributor. On the Mark Morris side, a player came off the court and immediately went to the sanitizer.

Normally, teams trade sides between sets. Not anymore. Teams stay on the same side, remain in their same seats.

Ridgefield coach Sabrina Dobbs used one word three times in a matter of seconds in trying to describe this fall sport being played in the winter.

“I think it’s … I think it’s weird,” Dobbs said. “It’s weird to be back because it’s been so long. To think about where we came from in 2019, and we’re in 2021 already, it’s very weird.”

Don’t get the wrong idea. She appreciates the season. It is just going to take a bit to get used to the changes.

After all, players also have to wear masks in competition. That’s different, too.

“We are happy to get the opportunity to play,” she said. “I think that’s all we wanted.”

Morgan Harter of Ridgefield rises up to spike it against two Mark Morris defenders Tuesday during their volleyball match. Photo by Mike Schultz
Morgan Harter of Ridgefield rises up to spike it against two Mark Morris defenders Tuesday during their volleyball match. Photo by Mike Schultz

The 2A Greater St. Helens League is limiting seating to an x-amount of fans per player, depending on the school, and for home fans only. A few parents were there Tuesday, but many fans stayed home and watched the match that was also streamed online.

“It’s super weird not to see everyone in the stands, but it’s great to know we still have supporters,” McCaskill said of those who watched at home.

The fans who did make it to the gym had to fill out an online wellness check and be subject to temperature checks when they arrived on campus.

One mom was thrilled to be watching her daughter, and her friends, play the sport they love.

“It’s so exciting. Volleyball is such a huge part of their lives, and school and athletics are such a big part of growing up in their teenage years,” said Mindy Harter. “The pandemic has proven how resilient these kids can be.”

Now, they just want to take advantage of this opportunity. The defending champions do not have a state tournament to look forward to during this abbreviated season. But they have expectations.

“Our goal is to play together, compete, do the best we can, and compete at a high level and see where that takes us,” senior Emilea Stepnaiuk said. “Obviously we want to do well and win our games, but as of right now, we just want to work really hard, play together, and play with this new team.”

Volleyball is back in Clark County.

Soon, the rest of the team sports will follow.

This academic-athletic school year will not look like anything we’ve ever seen, but competition is competition.

That is worthy of celebrating.

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