Despite a brief, early afternoon rain shower and high humidity and temperatures, The Arena Club Volleyball League opened for play Monday for a few hundred boys and girls in grades 6-12.
The league is an all-outdoor league open to any public, private and home schooled students. Matches and instruction will be played Mondays and Wednesdays, 2:30-6:30 p.m. and Saturdays 9 a.m.-1 p.m. All teams play on all days.
The nine-week season is set to run from Monday to October 24, with cold temperatures and daylight the biggest concerns.
High school games are played 4 vs 4 with six-players on a team, while middle school teams range from 4-6 players on the court. The first two waves are for high school players, while the third wave is primarily for middle school players.
12 courts, each a 60 x 30 space, allow for many to play in each wave. All courts are set up in the grassy field to the right of The Arena Club’s main building.
Action was as hot as the temperature as play got rolling Monday. In the early wave, high school boys filled up four nets and high school girls were battling on two nets.
Brothers Brandon and Caden Kestner, Bel Air senior and sophomore, respectively, were in a very well contested match to get play started. “Honestly, I was bummed out for sports being cancelled, especially being my senior year. It’s good to get out here and there’s actually faces that we recognize from around the county and we have some good talent out here to play against. It’s going to be a fun, little season out here,” Brandon said. “It’s competitive, also have a little fun, maybe a little bit of talk here and there, but nothing over the top. Just a little fun, competitive game out here.”
Caden was a JV player last fall and he was hoping to make the varsity team this year. “I’m just glad, I haven’t played a sport since March. I usually play spring basketball and stuff like that, but everything got cancelled,” Caden said. “I’m just happy to play a sport with people I know and see people actually out here playing.”
Both were feeling the heat, too. “It’s hot,” Caden quickly said.
“Today we made a plan to wear navy blue, which obviously, once we get our shirts, I’m pretty sure were getting shirts from here, hopefully we get a lighter color, so it won’t be as bad,” Brandon said. “Other than that, it’s just like playing outside if you’re outside with friends and you get competitive, a little bit of sweat won’t hurt.”
At least two others were not overly concerned with the heat.
Shawn Duffalo, who is overseeing the boys high school play, was pleased with the first day. “Obviously, everybody is just happy to be out here and they’re knocking of some of the cobwebs, because a lot of them haven’t been able to touch a ball because they’ve been inside for so long,” Duffalo said. “Just getting outside and touching the ball and knocking off the cobwebs is a good thing. We obviously have a couple really good teams, so I’m looking forward to the season.”
As for the heat? “I’m an outdoor volleyball player, I appreciate the heat. Heat is part of the game for me,” he said.
Duffalo says there were 84 high school boys to play Monday, which he says is at capacity. “I think we have a good enough number to have a quality league,” Duffalo added.
Jayda Patterson is an incoming junior at C. Milton Wright. A transfer from Florida, the heat wasn’t too bothersome. “It’s okay, I’m from Florida so I deal with much crazier temperatures, but it’s ok,” Patterson said.
Patterson, one of 11 high school girls on court three, battled for over an hour.
“I’m actually glad that they are doing something outside so we’re not sitting inside doing nothing. I think this was a really good idea, to keep kids playing volleyball for the season, so yeah, I’m happy they did it,” Patterson said.
Patterson says she never played any serious volleyball outside before, so the grass was one of the challenges. “Outside, you have to watch out for the grass, because it is slippery and you’re playing with four, so you try to adapt to playing that with everyone, not having backup and stuff,” Patterson said.
The league does have COVID protocols in place. Temperature checks happen at check in and all players, coaches, etc. are required to have a mask on when inside the play zone.
Players have the option of not wearing a mask while playing. Neither Kestner wore a mask while playing. Both agreed, though, it would just be another element to deal with and If the mask was mandatory, they would just look to find a lighter type mask, something more comfortable and more breathable.