Members of the Brewer High School volleyball team huddle during their Class B quarterfinal match against Wells in October 2018. The Witches reached the state semifinals in their first varsity season and had a large turnout for the team this year. Credit: Courtesy of Kevin Forrest

Last year was the first at the varsity level for the Brewer High School volleyball program.

This season, with a dramatic increase in participants, head coach Rich Nutter has added a second junior varsity team to accommodate the interest.

Brewer, which spent 2017 as a club team before being elevated to full varsity status last season, nearly doubled its number of players at this week’s tryouts. There were 44 players who turned out for tryouts after 26 showed up a year ago.

“That was quite a good turnout. I didn’t want to eliminate half the people trying out,” Nutter said.

Nutter explained that he will have 14 players on the varsity team, 12 on the top JV team and eight more on the second JV squad. There are six players on the court for each team in volleyball.

“We have 13 freshmen so we kept them on our A or B (JV) teams. That’s a pretty good building block for the future,” Nutter said. “I didn’t have a clue this many freshmen were interested in volleyball.”

Even with the interest and the added squad, Nutter reluctantly had to cut 10 prospective players after making no cuts a year ago.

The Witches also will be playing on a new home court this season.

They will play their home matches at the high school gym instead of the Brewer Community School gym. Sleeves were inserted into the gym floor so they could insert the next poles and play length-wise on the basketball court, allowing fans to sit in the stands.

Previously, the volleyball nets were set up across the width of the basketball floor.

“But we couldn’t pull out the bleachers so people could sit and watch the games,” Nutter said.

Brewer will use the two side-by-side courts for practice sometimes but they will play all of their home matches with the new alignment.

“We had to shut down the gym for two weeks [to upgrade the gym floor for volleyball],” said Brewer athletic director Dave Utterback, who noted the cost of the volleyball upgrades to the facility cost approximately $8,000.

Nutter said he was grateful to Utterback for all the work he put in on the project.

“He stuck his neck out to get this done. I really appreciate it,” Nutter said.

Utterback said the changes will enable Brewer players to stay at the high school to practice and to play their games rather than having to go to the Brewer Community School.

The Witches were an incredible success story a year ago when they went 13-3 and reached the Class B state semifinals where they were beaten in straight sets by eventual champion Yarmouth. Brewer beat Wells in the quarterfinals.

Brewer’s other two losses came at the hands of Class C state titleist Washington Academy of East Machias.

Nutter, who guided Woodland High School to three state championships and six state title matches, said he has eight seniors, two juniors and four sophomores on his varsity team.

Several of them not only attended his three-day summer camp, they also attended camps in Massachusetts and Portland.

“They’re working hard. They want to succeed. And we’re all having fun,” said Nutter, who began his coaching career in 1988.

Brewer opens the season on Saturday, Sept. 7, by hosting Washington Academy.