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Frontier girls volleyball eases into Division 3 semifinals

SOUTH DEERFIELD — Julia Wan took the drama out of this one early.

The 5-foot-11 senior middle hitter opened the match with four straight aces and the defending state champion Frontier Regional girls volleyball team kicked it into cruise control from there during a 25-9, 25-8, 25-22 victory over Sabis in the Western Massachusetts Division 3 Tournament quarterfinals Monday at Goodnow Gymnasium.

The top-seeded Red Hawks (19-1) overwhelmed the ninth-seeded Bulldogs, one of the newer Valley teams who were making just their fourth postseason appearance in school history. Frontier, meanwhile, is going for the program’s 13th Western Mass. title since 1991 and eighth in a row.

Wan’s service run gave the Hawks a 6-0 lead before Sabis could shed some of its nervousness. From there, the Hawks dominated at the net and from the service line, as Wan, Cassidy Stankowski and Kate Harper carried the play at the net, with Stankowski reeling off five straight points with three aces to break it open at 20-7 right after Ashlee Conners had cut the deficit to seven for the Bulldogs.

Wan had three kills later in the set, Tori Whitney’s block brought it to game point and Frontier wrapped up the set on a Sabis net violation.

Wan, Whitney and Emma Contois combined for 11 service points with two aces to build a commanding 13-1 advantage in the second set, while Stankowski and Sarah Woodward both highlighted the run with two kills apiece.

Sabis began to battle back and got as close as eight (14-6), but Stankowski got Frontier back on serve with a blast for one of her five kills in the two sets she played. Ali Durant and Stankowski helped build the lead to 20-7 before Sabis got its final point on an unforced error by the Hawks. Katherine Conlisk eventually served for the final three points of the set.

Red Hawks head coach Sean MacDonald emptied his bench for the third set, rotating 10 different players throughout (including all four of his freshmen), and the only real drama was when Frontier would take the lead for good after Sabis scored the first two points. The set was a seesaw affair, but once Cassidy Ciesluk took the line with Frontier trailing 10-9, she served for three consecutive aces to put the Hawks in front 12-10. From there, Sabis closed the gap to one before Frontier finally closed out the 57-minute match when Sabis was called for four hits.

Wan finished with six aces and five kills. Tori Whitney dished out 10 assists, Emma Contois and Emily Woodward both registered nine assists, while Harper, Sarah Woodward, Sarah Conlisk and Cassidy Ciesluk all totaled four kills to lead a balanced attack.

“The first (match) for us has been a little shaky, but I really can’t argue with 9 and 8 in the first two games, (and) I was able to get some other players in,” MacDonald said. “We definitely have a few things we need to work on for Wednesday.”

Frontier — which improved to 16-0 all-time in quarterfinals — will enjoy one more home match on Wednesday, when it entertains fourth-seeded Lenox in the semifinal at 6:30. The Millionaires advanced on Monday with a 23-25, 25-17, 25-20, 25-9 win over Berkshire County rival and No. 5 Wahconah Regional.

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