Division 3 girls volleyball: Frontier Regional wins 9th straight sectional championship

Laste modified: Wednesday, January 22, 2014
HOLYOKE — This may not be the most talented team Frontier Regional has ever assembled, but make no mistake about it, this team was determined to add another championship to the trophy case.

The top-seeded Red Hawks didn’t take anything for granted against Athol, as they used another solid serving performance and stellar defense to defeat the third-seeded Red Raiders 25-13, 25-8, 25-16, and capture their ninth consecutive Western Massachusetts Division 3 Girls Volleyball Tournament championship on Saturday afternoon at Holyoke Community College.

Frontier (18-4) moves on to the state semifinals against central Mass. champion Sutton (18-4) on Wednesday night at 7 at Hudson High School.

The Red Hawks played extremely well on defense, limiting a tough Athol offense to just nine kills for the entire match. Meanwhile, Frontier’s serving was consistent and difficult to defend, as it recorded 16 more aces on Saturday.

“Frontier used to be known for its serving a few years ago, and that’s what people would zone in on,” Senior cocaptain Sarah Woodward said. “If we wanted to get to states, serving — and serving aggressively — was going to be a big part of it. We don’t care if we hit more balls out when we’re serving, but we want to serve more aggressively because we’re going to get more aces that way. ... It’s work out pretty well so far.”

Added coach Sean MacDonald, “Serving is your first line of defense, and I think it’s certainly working for us. If we can keep up the aggressive serving to the right spots on the court, I feel good about our chances moving forward.”

Athol (20-2) showed it wasn’t intimidated in the opening set, staying with the Red Hawks point for point, but the Red Raiders were unable to get a lead in the set, and when the score was 10-6, Woodward and senior libero Haley Dacyczyn each served for three points during a 9-3 run that extend the lead to 19-9. The Raiders never got closer than eight (21-13) before Emily Woodward (23 assists, three kills, three aces) served for the final three points.

Athol has a great team,” said Sarah Woodward, who finished with nine kills, six digs and one ace. “We didn’t want to underestimate them at all. When they started receiving our serves and our hits, it opened our eyes.”

Frontier took complete control of the match in the middle set, behind a five-point run from Cassidy Ciesluk (three of which were aces) and a six-pointer from Emily Woodward (two aces) to build a commanding 18-4 lead. Sarah Woodward had three kills, Remi Quesnelle added a pair and Sarah Conlisk (five kills, four aces) had two nicely timed tips into the open floor during the scoring run.

Sarah Woodward’s four service points later made it 22-5. Athol fought back for a few points before Frontier got the final point to go up 2-0.

The Red Hawks tried to pull away in the third set, but a stubborn Athol squad led by Tessa Neverett (five kills, 14 digs), Lexi Hamlett (eight assists) and Krystal Campbell (eight digs), kept the score close at 17-14, but Conlisk’s tip got the serve back at 18-14 and Ciesluk fired up four straight points to make to 22-14.

A few minutes later, Sarah Woodward ended the match with a blast down the line. She later admitted that the graduation losses from last year — which included three all-state selections — and reaction from others fueled this team’s fire.

“I think that people doubting us (because we lost so many good players) was what pushed us so hard, because we know the talent we have,” she said. “Now that we’ve won and gotten back to states, we want it so much more.

“The weird thing is we usually come in a little nervous, but (today) we had so much energy and it was such a different atmosphere with this team, it was kind of cool,” she added.