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Frontier seeking third straight state volleyball title

It would be a fitting end to what has been the most prolific career for a local volleyball player.

On Saturday, senior Cassidy Stankowski and the Frontier Regional girls volleyball team will try to win their third consecutive state Division 3 championship. The Red Hawks (22-1) face Lynnfield (21-3) at Algonquin Regional in Northborough at noon.

Stankowski has played at the varsity level since seventh grade.

“If I do cry, it’s not because I’m sad that she’s leaving, but it’s the end of an era and it’s been special,” Frontier coach Sean MacDonald said. “Cassidy has been here first as a fan, then as the team statistician, a young libero and then a nationally respected player. If that all hits me in the space of 10 seconds after the match, I’m going to be in trouble.”

The Central Connecticut State University-bound Stankowski is far from the only weapon on the team. Junior Sarah Woodward has progressed through the season and become another force up front, registering 19 kills over the past two matches. Senior middle hitter Julia Wan, who joined Stankowski on the All-State team, collected eight kills and three blocks in the semifinal victory, while players like Kate Harper, Tori Whitney and libero Ali Durant are each solid contributors.

“I think we just need to do what we do and do it at a percentage that’s high enough to win,” MacDonald said. “I think Lynnfield is going to have to do some things different. Although we don’t see a lot of teams that have a potent right-side attack. Our blockers are usually used to going one direction. We practiced that today with our defense and our blockers.”

Lynnfield is led by senior outside hitter Caroline Shannon, one of two All-State selections on the Pioneers. She is joined by fellow All-State selection Abby Norwood, who is second on the team in kills and leading in hitting percentage. Amanda McQueen is the third top player on the Pioneers.

Lynnfield’s three losses came to Division 2 North Andover and twice to Division 2 Bishop Fenwick. Lynnfield did not drop a set in its three North tournament matches, but finally dropped one in the state semifinal match against Millbury on Tuesday, when the Pioneers advanced to the championship match with a 25-6, 22-25, 25-22, 25-10 victory.

Frontier, meanwhile, has not had a close match in the postseason. Despite the easy wins, MacDonald makes sure that every player takes every match seriously.

“That’s my job and sometimes they look at me funny when I get upset about something,” he said. “Even in a match in the middle of the season when we have a big lead, if we’re doing something dumb, I let them know. Every game, every practice, we’re practicing for the last five matches of the year. That’s our goal, and everything we do through the year is preparing for those last five matches. Sometimes it might look unsportsmanlike when I get upset about a mistake when we are up big, but we need to get it in our head that we need to fight for every point, because you need to think that way.”

The formula could lead to a third straight state title for Frontier.

“We are just focused on playing the best that we can,” MacDonald said. “I like our chances. And if we win, it will be the exclamation point on an amazing career by a player that has won six WMass championships and three state titles.”

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