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Invasive Species Threaten Volleyball Championships

by weee5067


With the month of Swimming fast approaching, one thing is on every Mystery Islander’s mind: The Mynci Beach Volleyball Championship Tournament. However, the recent influx of invasive Pawkeets and Turdles might forever change the sport as we know it.

     With barely a month to go before the tournament, officials are being called on to release a statement explaining how Petpet interference will be handled. Last year, Pawkeet and Turdle appearances were rare, and each ref was allowed to settle disputes on a case-by-case basis. Now, Pawkeet sightings seem to happen every point; if a standardized approach isn’t created, allegations of match-rigging are all but inevitable.

     Traditionally, players of Mynci Beach Volleyball take turns hitting a ball over a net, running and jumping to keep the ball from landing on their side of the court. Top players have an uncanny ability to predict where the ball will go, always staying a step ahead of less experienced opponents. As Silma Nax, a longtime fan, puts it, “It’s supposed to be a game of pure skill.”

     But the introduction of new Petpet species has left players struggling to adapt as the critters do everything from rooting a player in place to changing the size of the net. At a minor tournament earlier this year, a flock of Pawkeets caused a major upset, with both the favourites getting eliminated in the quarterfinals. Fans were not pleased: “If I wanted randomness, I’d watch Tombola.”

     Not everyone objects, however. According to Ler, a local Flotsam, “The sport’s stagnated. The same two Myncis have been reaching the finals every year since I was a kid.” In her mind, this new development is exactly what’s needed to revitalize the game and draw in a younger crowd. “Last year, more Mystery Islanders showed up to the Altador Cup finals than the Mynci Beach Volleyball finals. The Mystery Island team had already come home!” (Team captain Volgoth declined to comment.)

     Velai, a ticket seller, admits that he’s been getting worried. “Watching a match just isn’t the same without a cheering crowd surrounding you.” To him, anything that fills the bleachers is an improvement. “I hadn’t seen sales so low since the time Techo Mountain erupted, but things are starting to turn around.”

     Opinions from players are similarly mixed. One experienced player lamented that, back in the day, every point was something to be proud of. “We’d have games that lasted hours. It all came down to whose concentration broke first. Nowadays, players can just stall and wait for their opponent to get tripped by a Turdle.” Megitel, a 5-time champion, agrees. “I spend hours each day crosstraining - doing sprints, holding coconuts for weighted jumps - and now, any newcomer can catch a lucky Pawkeet and outrun or outjump me?”

     But other players appreciate the changes, such as amateur Breya Crall. “When I was in school, I loved Mynci Beach Volleyball, but the coach told me I didn’t have the build for it. Suddenly, understanding the strategy and being able to adapt is more important than how tall you are.” Her former coach, Ster Pavafalt, adds “I hated having to cut eager young players from the team, but I had to be realistic. Now, it’s anyone’s game.”

     One proposal that’s starting to gain traction is to move the tournament venue from Mystery Island’s south shore to the secluded beach to the east. A popular spot for casual players, no Pawkeet or Turdle sightings have been reported to date. However, not everyone is thrilled with this option. According to Megitel, “Those mysterious letters creep me out. I’d rather take my chances with the Pawkeets.”

     An unanswered question is how the Petpets were even introduced to Mystery Island in the first place. The island has a rich but fragile ecosystem, and all imports are thoroughly screened for anything that might displace the local wildlife. The Jubjub in charge of Harbor Inspections insists that her highly-trained staff would never have been careless enough to let through even a single contraband Petpet. “Just the other day, we caught a Twirly Plant folded up in a sail. If someone smuggled these Petpets in, they didn’t come through the Harbor.”

     Pawkeets are native to neighbouring Krawk Island - some say you can see the volleyball courts from the Golden Dubloon on a clear day with a good spyglass - but zoologists doubt a Pawkeet’s stubby wings can keep it aloft for more than a few miles at a time. Even more puzzling, no other Krawk Island species seem to have made the jump. “Of all the Krawk Island Petpets I’d expect to make an appearance in Mystery Island, the Pawkeet was low on my list.”

     Krawk Island might be a mere 80 miles away, but Meridell is far more distant, and while Turdles are known to be deceptively fast on land, they’re not strong swimmers. One theory is that Turdles actually originated near Maraqua, and washed up in Meridell after a nasty storm. With so little of the ocean floor explored, it’s possible the new Mystery Island arrivals came from an undiscovered Turdle colony that was displaced by the enormous whirlpool a few years back.

     Some coaches believe the invasive Petpets are no coincidence. “Pawkeets are used in Deckball, and Turdle Racing is the biggest thing in Meridell. If anyone has an incentive to ruin Mynci Beach Volleyball, it’s the people in charge of those sports.” Representatives from Krawk Island and Meridell declined to comment.

     In a sense, it’s ironic that the home of the Gadgadsbogen Festival can be so resistant to change. As Cinto Pango explains, “All Mystery Islanders know the pain of learning that your favourite fruit will no longer grow, but we also all know the joy of discovering a new favourite.” He believes the time has come to welcome a new version of the traditional sport, and that the true Mystery Island spirit is to look to the future, not the past.

     With no official statement yet from Mynci Beach Volleyball officials, speculation and debate continues to rage. Will a compromise be reached? Will disgruntled players take matters into their own hands? One thing is for sure: this year’s Championship Tournament will be one for the history books.

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