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Cassidy Stankowski wins second Gatorade honor

Cassidy Stankowski, center, of Frontier Regional, was named the Massachusetts Gatorade Girls Volleyball Player of the Year Wednesday for the second straight season.

GAZETTE FILE PHOTO Cassidy Stankowski, center, of Frontier Regional, was named the Massachusetts Gatorade Girls Volleyball Player of the Year Wednesday for the second straight season. Purchase photo reprints »

Frontier Regional volleyball star Cassidy Stankowski said she was shocked upon hearing the news Wednesday morning from Red Hawks coach Sean MacDonald.

Despite missing significant time due to injury this season, Stankowski earned one final award to cap an exceptional high school career. The senior was named the Gatorade Massachusetts Player of the Year for the second consecutive season after helping drive the Red Hawks to their third consecutive Division 3 state championship in November.

“I did not expect this with the time I missed this season,” said Stankowski. “When Sean told me I won I was completely speechless. It’s a great honor, especially after feeling I wouldn’t win it. And to win it twice is unbelievable, I don’t have the words for it.”

MacDonald said, “I’m not really surprised, but I didn’t think it was in the bag with Cassidy’s stats being down because of the missed time. I think it’s the right decision for sure. The fact that she won this last year helped, and winning the state title certainly helps. It’s very well-deserved. She’s done so many things to help our team win.”

Stankowski finished the 2012 season with 185 kills, 127 digs, 21 aces and 13 blocks. Frontier went 23-1 in claiming another state crown.

Winning the Player of the Year again “was definitely a goal of mine coming into the season,” she said. “I always want to be the best I can be, and to receive this honor is amazing. I’m very thankful to the committee of people that chose me.”

The four-time Division 3 all-state selection and 2012 American Volleyball Coaches Association Under Armour Honorable Mention All-American had 17 kills and 14 digs in Frontier’s state final victory over Lynnfield.

But her final high school season wasn’t without some adversity, as Stankowski sat out nearly three full weeks early on with a knee injury.

“It wasn’t a major setback, it was more frustrating than anything,” said Stankowski. “When the doctor told me to take those weeks off, I had a tough time handling it. Not only because I couldn’t play or practice, but because I’m always active. So that was a difficult period, but I got through it.”

Over a six-year high school career, she amassed 1,483 kills, 1,151 digs and 364 aces, displaying an all-around game unmatched in recent years.

“Cassidy can do it all — pass, dig, hit, block, serve — and her coach has even had her set to let her rest at times, and she is well capable,” said Westborough coach and Gatorade selection committee member Roger Anderson, in Wednesday’s press release announcing the award. “Her speed, ball control and intangibles make her the top in my book.”

But as is the case with most great athletes, the pure numbers tell only a part of the story.

“The stats show that my hitting is pretty good, but I really like to play defense,” she said. “I would always bug Sean in practice about doing more on the defensive side and keeping balls off the floor. I just wanted to help the team in any way possible. We had a lot of versatility as a team, so I could move around the floor and do different things and not take away from the team’s ability to win.”

Truly the most important statistic to Stankowski is her team’s six-year record, which wrapped up at 137-6 overall and a perfect 122-0 against competition from western Massachusetts.

“I’m very proud of the two Gatorade titles, but I’m most proud of our team’s three-peat,” she said. “I wouldn’t be the player of the year without my teammates and coaches. They’ve made me look good my whole career. It’s definitely that much more special to win individual awards when the team is so successful.”

MacDonald and the program will have a tough time replacing Stankowski.

“Her contribution to Frontier has been extraordinary, we can’t ask any more of her,” said MacDonald. “So it’s time for her to take the next step in her career. I’m sad it’s over, but it’s like seeing your kids grow up. She helped build the program to the point where we compete with the best in the state. I feel we’ll continue to do that even though Cassidy won’t be with us anymore.”

Next fall Stankowski will play for Central Connecticut State, marking the first time since 2006 she won’t be wearing a Red Hawks jersey.

“It’s a surreal feeling, because playing for Frontier volleyball has been a huge part of my life for the past six years,” she said. “So for it to be over suddenly is unbelievable. It’s been a great career, and I’ve had great teammates around me. But it’s time for that next chapter, and I’m really excited about that.”

Michael Wilkinson can be reached at mwilkinson@gazettenet.com.

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