Frontier Regional girls volleyball serves Amherst Regional 3-1 loss

  • Bri Thurber, center, of Frontier Regional, returns a serve as Lauren Davenport, right, looks on in the third set against Melrose, Saturday in South Deerfield. On Thursday, Frontier beat Amherst 3-1. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

Thursday, September 28, 2017

SOUTH DEERFIELD — Grace Randall’s serving runs lasted so long her shin splints began bothering her.

The Frontier Regional volleyball senior toughed it out, though, and kept going. She finished with 10 aces and kept Amherst Regional off balance with her laser serve in a 3-1 (21-25, 25-13, 25-9, 25-19) win Thursday.

“I think it was the strength of (the serve), maybe the spot, yeah, but mostly the strength,” Randall said. “Once I start to serve three or four balls I get really hyped.”

She served 11 in a row during the second set, turning a 12-12 tie to a 23-12 Frontier lead. Randall fired five aces during that run.

“Grace really shined tonight,” Frontier junior Lauren Davenport said. “As a team it’s good to just stay out on the court and watch her do her thing.”

Frontier (7-2, 4-0 Eastern) challenged Amherst from the service line all night in a battle of defending Western Massachusetts champions. The Red Hawks tallied 21 aces. Ella Deane and Sarah Zoly had four each.

“We need to receive serve better than we did tonight,” Amherst coach Kacey Schmitt said. “We were completely out of sync and out of system.”

Amherst (6-2, 1-2) closed the first set on a 4-1 run to win 25-21. The Hurricanes trailed 4-0 behind three hitting errors, but ripped off the next six points to take the lead. It changed hands three more times before Amherst closed it out.

Frontier committed four hitting errors, five service errors and four ball/net violations in Set 1.

“It’s frustrating. I feel like we do it to ourselves sometimes,” Frontier coach Sean MacDonald said. “I’d prefer you make them do something spectacular to score.”

The Red Hawks cleaned up their play and ratcheted up their serving pressure after the opening frame. They held Amherst to 22 combined points in the match’s middle two sets.

“If we see someone struggling, we try to give them more opportunities to struggle,” MacDonald said.

Great serving doesn’t just produce aces. It forces the opponent out of system, which means they often have to give a free ball back, which lets the serving team run its offense quickly.

Deane finished with 35 assists. She needs seven for 1,000 in her career. Frontier next plays at East Longmeadow on Monday. She distributed evenly, getting four Red Hawks at least six kills. Davenport led the team with 16.

“Sets are going great, and everything’s kind of fitting together,” Davenport said.

Amherst is still trying to fit its pieces in the right spot. The Hurricanes needed to replace six seniors from last year’s sectional title team.

“I don’t have that solid lineup that I know they’re really aware of who’s around them and who’s gonna go for the ball,” Schmitt said. “I feel like we’re still searching.”

Claire Basler-Chang led the Hurricanes with 14 kills and 16 digs. Teya Nolan (11 digs) still managed 30 assists despite playing out of system for most of the game. Natalie Elliott led Amherst with 21 digs.

The Hurricanes fought off three match points in the fourth set.

“Hopefully it is a wake-up for them. They know they can play a lot better than this, and I know they can play a lot better than this,” Schmitt said. “We need to figure out what we need to work on. Mostly it’s serve-receive.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowsk@gazettenet.com.