Girls volleyball player of the year: Cassidy Stankowski
Frontier Regional's Cassidy Stankowski has her name announced before the Red Hawks matchup against Longmeadow on Wednesday. JOSH KUCKENS Purchase photo reprints »
It wasn’t a perfect final season, but it did feature a perfect ending.
In November, Frontier Regional girls volleyball star Cassidy Stankowski wrapped up a career for the ages by lifting a state Division 3 championship trophy for the third straight year.
“Very few athletes in any sport get to end their high school career with a win,” coach Sean MacDonald said. “She ended it with a win in the state championship and that was the third in a row for her. That’s pretty special. To win six western Mass. titles in a row, every year she was on the team, was pretty special.”
Stankowski, meanwhile, still looks at her career as having stepped in for older sister Alyssa when she graduated after the 2007-08 season. Alyssa Stankowski graduated as a two-time state champion and three-time WMass winner. Both Stankowskis were starters on the 2007 team — Alyssa as a senior, Cassidy as a seventh-grader — that reached the state finals.
“I always think about my sister,” Cassidy Stankowski said. “I think about what she did for the program and how I would like to think that I filled in her shoes when she left and took over the role that she played on the team.”
Cassidy Stankowski won two straight Massachusetts Gatorade Player of the Year honors. She was a four-time all-state selection and will likely earn her third straight Prepvolleyball.com All American honor when the list is released next month. She was recognized as a AVCA/Under Armor All-American honorable mention this season.
The four-year team captain and five-time league all-star finished her career with 1,483 kills, 1,151 digs, 364 aces and a 122-0 record against teams from WMass. Overall, her teams went 137-6 (.958) in six seasons.
“I think a lot of us knew way back that she had the potential to be very, very good,” MacDonald said. Alyssa “told us when Cassidy was in eighth grade that her sister was going to end up being better than she was.
“For (Cassidy) to be one of the best players in the area wasn’t a surprise. To be picked as the best player in the state two years in a row was less foreseeable and national recognition is always hard to know.”
There were some bumpy times this year for the outside hitter with the thunderous kills. Knee tendinitis midway through the season kept her out for two weeks, including the team’s lone loss of the season — a 3-1 defeat to Notre Dame Academy.
“It was stressful at times. It was more frustrating than anything,” she said. “Being out with an injury for multiple weeks was not easy, especially when this is your last season. It prevented me from helping my team.”
Stankowski came back in time to find her groove for the postseason and hurt her knee midway through the state finals.
“I probably wasn’t all the way back to 100 percent until the state finals, and then I reinjured it during the second or third game,” she said.
Stankowski battled through the pain, finishing with 17 kills and 14 digs in the 3-0 victory over Lynnfield.
With that final title won, Stankowski moves on to Division I Central Connecticut State in the fall. She’s already completely healed from the re-injury and working hard in the weight room to prepare for a new set of challenges.
“I’m pretty sure I’m going to have a sport starting as an outside hitter,” Stankowski said of her expectations for her freshman year. “But I just have to keep working hard to earn that. ... I know it’s not going to be easy, so I have to keep pushing myself to make is easier as the times comes.”
Jim Pignatiello can be reached at email@example.com.
Athena Donta, senior, Amherst Regional
Haley Parker, senior, Amherst Regional
Cassie Long, junior, Amherst Regional
Kim Drawec, senior, Belchertown
Elizabeth Whitney, senior, Easthampton
Rechena Nhem, senior, Easthampton
Cassidy Stankowski, senior, Frontier Regional
Ali Durant, senior, Frontier Regional
Julia Wan, senior, Frontier Regional
Sarah Woodward, junior, Frontier Regional
Maddie Kelleher, junior, South Hadley
Greta Devoney, senior, Amherst Regional
Shannon Napier, senior, Amherst
Kayla MacFarland, senior, Easthampton
Kelly Avard, senior, Easthampton
Mary Gyeidu, senior, Easthampton
Tori Whitney, senior, Frontier Regional
Kate Harper, senior, Frontier Regional
Emily Woodward, freshman, Frontier Regional
Sarah LaRochelle, junior, South Hadley
Shanel De Los Santos, senior, South Hadley