Daily Hampshire Gazette - Established 1786
Clear
59°
Clear
Hi 69° | Lo 44°

Seven-time champ Frontier earns top seed in Division 3 girls volleyball tournament

  • Frontier Regional has a team cheer before the Red Hawk's matchup against Longmeadow on Wednesday.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS

    Frontier Regional has a team cheer before the Red Hawk's matchup against Longmeadow on Wednesday.
    JOSH KUCKENS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Frontier Regional has a team cheer before the Red Hawk's matchup against Longmeadow on Wednesday.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS

    Frontier Regional has a team cheer before the Red Hawk's matchup against Longmeadow on Wednesday.
    JOSH KUCKENS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Frontier Regional has a team cheer before the Red Hawk's matchup against Longmeadow on Wednesday.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS
  • Frontier Regional has a team cheer before the Red Hawk's matchup against Longmeadow on Wednesday.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS

When Sean MacDonald considers the state of his Frontier Regional girls volleyball team, he does so with an eye on the big picture.

So when he talks about his concerns, it is with the team’s ultimate goal — a third straight state Division 3 tournament championship — in mind.

“Practices we were looking pretty good, we just didn’t look very smooth (in Monday’s regular season finale against Longmeadow). That bothers me a little bit,” he said. “What they are doing in practice isn’t necessarily happening the same way in the game. I might have to adjust some things in practice.”

The Red Hawks (18-1) were awarded the No. 1 seed in D-3 at Thursday’s seeding meeting and will open their postseason against either No. 8 Ware (12-6) or No. 9 Sabis (17-3) at home Monday at 6:30 p.m.

Frontier enters the tournament heavily favored to win its eighth straight WMass title and hopes to send its senior class out with a third straight state championship.

“Our serving looks so good in practice and wasn’t so hot” against Longmeadow, MacDonald said. ‘We missed some stuff and our defense needs to improve.”

After a season of battling through injuries — including a bout for state Gatorade Player of the Year Cassidy Stankowski (knee) — the team is finally healthy and just looking to find that same groove it has been in each of the past seven postseasons.

“Everybody is available, so that’s good,” MacDonald said. “Much of the season it has been this person or that person. We have everybody available, so that’s good.”

Stankowski, who is headed to Division 1 Central Connecticut State on scholarship next year, is rounding into form as well.

“Cassidy is doing great,” MacDonald said. “She was just serving ridiculously good in practice.”

Stankowski had 10 kills and 18 digs in Monday’s contest against the Lancers, who have won five straight WMass D-2 titles.

Ending the season against Longmeadow “is good for both teams,” MacDonald said. “Longmeadow, some of the players we know pretty well, said this is so much fun. It was good volleyball all the way through. It’s good for both teams to prepare against good competition because that’s what you are going to see in the tournament.”

No. 10 Easthampton (15-3) finished as the runner-up in the Central Division and plays a first-round game at No. 7 Athol (13-6) at a time and date to be announced.

The Eagles had won seven straight before falling at D-2 Ludlow in their finale.

No. 11 Belchertown (10-9) won four of its last five matches and qualified for the postseason in its regular season finale. The Orioles play at No. 6 Turners Falls (9-9) Saturday at 4 p.m. Belchertown beat the Indians 3-0 at home on Oct. 5.

No. 13 South Hadley (10-8) is at No. 4 Lenox (13-4) at a time and date to be announced.

Division 2

Amherst Regional will get its third crack at league rival Agawam in the quarterfinals Monday.

The No. 6 Hurricanes (9-7) fell to the No. 3 Brownies (13-6) by a score of 3-1 both times this season.

“Because of the way we competed against Agawam, I actually think (the Amherst players) were really excited to get another shot at them as opposed to a team that might have walked right over you,” coach Kacey Schmitt said. “They feel like they can compete with them.”

The teams squared off in the regular season finale — Amherst’s senior night — on Oct. 25, with the Brownies winning 25-23, 25-21, 20-25, 25-8.

“The only one that wasn’t close was the fourth,” said Schmitt, whose team reached the WMass finals last year. “We got into a bad rotation and it hurt us. That bummed me out because I thought we were playing them very well. It was a very competitive match.”

The Hurricanes certainly ran the gauntlet down the stretch, having played and lost to each of the top three seeds over the final four matches of the season.

Minnechaug (16-2) earned the No. 1 spot, followed by five-time defending champion Longmeadow (15-3) and Agawam. All three are in the Eastern Division with Amherst.

“I was actually pretty surprised to get the sixth, but we play such a hard schedule and that helped us,” Schmitt said.

Despite the challenging schedule to end the season, Schmitt has been pleased with her team’s improvement and felt the emergence of Grace Frank as the full-time setter has allowed everything else to fall into place.

“I had told them from the very beginning where I was going to give a lot of kids a chance to show me what they could do and then by the middle of the season we’d solidify the lineup,” she said. “They’ve started to play a little more loose and a little more confidence because they are able to just react instead of think too much.”

Athena Donta is the team’s leader. The 5-foot-3 hitter has taken on a lot of responsibilities as a senior.

“She’s so fundamentally strong and so experienced,” Schmitt said. “She’s our do-everything player. We had to ask her to do more (this season) and she’s stepped up and done it.”

Jim Pignatiello can be reached at jpignatiello@gazettenet.com.

Comments
Legacy Comments0
There are no comments yet. Be the first!
Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.