A fitting end to an exceptional career for Cassidy Stankowski
Cassidy Stankowski of Frontier Regional spikes the ball against Mahar during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 Tournament championship game on Saturday, Nov. 10. Purchase photo reprints »
NORTHBOROUGH — Saturday marked the perfect final chapter to end one of the great careers in any sport in western Massachusetts history.
Cassidy Stankowski put together one more remarkable performance, leading the Frontier Regional girls volleyball team to a 3-0 victory over Lynnfield for a third straight Division 3 tournament championship.
“Everybody wanted to finish” with a state title, coach Sean MacDonald said. “Everybody wanted to send Cassidy out with a third one and all the seniors with a win. We didn’t play as smooth as I would like, but we did enough.”
Stankowski posted 17 kills and 14 digs and — in the biggest moment of the match — had six kills during her team’s seven points to pull away in the first game en route to the 25-19, 25-16, 25-21 victory.
“I was focused on the task at hand,” Stankowski said. “Everyone was saying, ‘Oh, Cassidy, this is your last this, your last that,’ but I told everyone I didn’t want to talk about that stuff because it would make me cry and we have a bigger goal right now that we have to accomplish.”
The final accomplishment joins the incredible list — Gatorade Player of the Year, multiple-time All-American, three-time state champion, six-time sectional tournament champion, roughly 1,500 career kills, 1,150 career digs — she takes with her to Division I Central Connecticut State University next fall.
“There’s no one that ever going to touch her record of (137-6) and she didn’t even play in one of the losses,” said MacDonald. Stankowski was injured when her team lost to Notre Dame Academy this season.
“She’s just put together such a good career,” he added. “The numbers are incredible. They are just crazy.”
It’s been an emotional week for Stankowski, who signed her college letter of intent Wednesday afternoon, hours before leading her team past Archbishop Williams in the state semifinals.
“That day was so emotional,” she said. “When I signed my letter, my mom (Sue) started crying and that made me cry. But I knew at that time that there was more to do at the end of the day. I just had to wipe those emotions out and do what I had to do in the game to get the job done.”
Stankowski kept her emotions in check Saturday until her kill put the third game at 24-18, one point from the title. That’s when she fought her emotions.
“It was more excitement than nerves,” she said. “I was excited about what was going to follow and I knew that it was in my control to end the game.”
Lynnfield rallied, however, before junior Sarah Woodward’s kill ended it at 25-21. The Red Hawks shook the Pioneers’ hands and that’s when Stankowski and her teammates finally let loose with a loud celebratory cheer, followed by hugs and countless photo ops.
“I didn’t cry until my dad (Jack) came up and hugged me and told me he was proud of me,” she said.
Stankowski first joined the program as the younger sister of star Alyssa and daughter of assistant coach Jack. Alyssa led the Red Hawks to state titles in 2005 and 2006 and was on the runner-up team in 2007. Cassidy overtook her sister with the third state title Saturday.
“We are best friends. I know she’s happy for me and I’m proud of her for her two,” Cassidy Stankowski said. “She’s an amazing big sister and I know she’s going to support me no matter what I do in my life.”
MacDonald said he’s excited for Stankowski to take the next step in her volleyball career.
“It’s been a special ride. It’s time for it to come to an end and for her to move on to the next thing,” he said. “Everybody says that we’ll be sad when she graduates, but she’s done her part. You can’t ask her to do any more.”
MacDonald added, “It’s time for her to do her college thing and play with some better players at a better level and try to raise her game. It’s tough to do that at the high school level against the people that you see. They don’t force her to improve that much.
“That’s what I’m looking forward to,” he continued. “I want to try to go watch some of her college matches and cheer for her. She’s done her part for Frontier.”
Stankowski, meanwhile, is looking forward to seeing the next group of players take over the program.
“When my sister’s class left, it was kind of the same thing,” she said. “They were all starters and they left a big impact on the program. At that time, I knew that I had to step into my sister’s shoes and become a leader and lead the team to championships like this.
“I just want the team to know that whatever you have in mind, you can do it,” she added. “No matter what stands in your way, you can always get through it.”
Jim Pignatiello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.