Division 3 girls volleyball: Frontier sweeps AMSA to reach state finals

  • Frontier players celebrate their MIAA Div. 3 semifinal win against AMSA on Wednesday night at Tantasqua Regional High School in Fiskdale. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier players celebrate their MIAA Div. 3 semifinal win against AMSA on Wednesday night at Tantasqua Regional High School in Fiskdale. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier’s Jalen Sullivan gets a kill against AMSA in the third set Wednesday night during the MIAA Div. 3 semifinal game at Tantasqua Regional High School in Fiskdale. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier’s Olivia Deane jumps up to hit against AMSA in the third set Wednesday night during the MIAA Div. 3 semifinal game at Tantasqua Regional High School in Fiskdale. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier’s Abbe Roberts serves against AMSA in the third set Wednesday night during the MIAA Div. 3 semifinal game at Tantasqua Regional High School in Fiskdale. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier’s Olivia Deane (9) gets a kill past AMSA blockers Piper Kinney (1) and Diana Bibinski (6) in the third set Wednesday night during the MIAA Div. 3 semifinal game at Tantasqua Regional High School in Fiskdale. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier’s Reilly Isler serves against AMSA in the third set Wednesday night during the MIAA Div. 3 semifinal game at Tantasqua Regional High School in Fiskdale. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier’s Sydney Scanlon (2) sets the ball for Jillian Apanell, right, against AMSA in the third set Wednesday night during the MIAA Div. 3 semifinal game at Tantasqua Regional High School in Fiskdale. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier’s Jalen Sullivan serves against AMSA in the second set Wednesday night during the MIAA Div. 3 semifinal game at Tantasqua Regional High School in Fiskdale. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier’s Jalen Sullivan serves against AMSA in the third set Wednesday night during the MIAA Div. 3 semifinal game at Tantasqua Regional High School in Fiskdale. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier head coach Sean MacDonald celebrates with his team after their MIAA Div. 3 semifinal win against AMSA on Wednesday night at Tantasqua Regional High School in Fiskdale. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier head coach Sean MacDonald celebrates with his team after their MIAA Div. 3 semifinal win against AMSA on Wednesday night at Tantasqua Regional High School in Fiskdale. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 11/13/2019 10:39:11 PM

FISKDALE — The Frontier Regional girls volleyball team was unfazed in Wednesday night’s state Division 3 semifinal, despite playing in front of a boisterous, partisan crowd that traveled from Marlborough to support its opponent.

The Red Hawks needed just over an hour to eliminate Central Mass. champion Advanced Math and Science Academy Charter School (AMSA), advancing to the state final with a 25-13, 25-18, 25-9 sweep at Tantasqua Regional.

Frontier (16-8) will go for the program’s 10th state championship on Saturday when it meets South champion Rockland (24-1) at Worcester State University. That match is scheduled for noon.

“It’s so incredible,” Frontier senior Jalen Sullivan said about returning to the state final. “I cried tears of joy. I’m so excited, so happy. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end my senior year.”

Frontier coach Sean MacDonald said his team is enjoying the ride. Despite significant roster turnover, the Red Hawks are back in a familiar spot — playing for a state title.

“The odds were kind of stacked up against them to be playing on Saturday,” MacDonald said. “To lose five seniors last year, all of them started. It’s a new team every year, you start with a blank sheet of paper. I think this is special to even get there with this group. A lot of new people on the court are playing significant time.”

In the victory over AMSA (22-2), Frontier rose to the occasion playing in what amounted to a road environment. The Eagles, playing in the state tournament for the first time in school history, had a significant fan presence, with students and well-wishers packing a bus to head to Fiskdale for the match.

“AMSA’s crowd is awesome,” MacDonald said. “I told a couple of them I’d like to rent them for Saturday.”

With the crowd attempting to make an impact early, however, Frontier looked very much like a program that has been in the state tourney for 15 consecutive years. Sydney Scanlon’s ace staked the Hawks to a 7-3 advantage, and the offensive prowess of Sullivan (five kills in the opening set) enabled the Western Mass. champions to cruise to a 25-13 victory.

“I told them, ‘Guys, they’re sending a fan bus and there’s going to be a lot of people here cheering for the other team,’” MacDonald said. “You can’t say, just block them out. If I say, don’t think of pink elephants, the first thing you’re going to think of is a pink elephant. Just think about what we have to do right now, get in the moment, and the rest of it starts to fade out if you focus on what you’re supposed to focus on.”

Sullivan thought her team responded well to the AMSA crowd.

“It was just like any other game,” she said. “They were cheering for them but it didn’t really bother us at all. I play better when they’re cheering. If anything, it boosted us.”

The match grew tight at points in the second set. The Eagles, bolstered by the play of star hitter Olivia Deckers, who left with an injury on the very first point of the semifinal but later returned, led 17-14. Riding that momentum, AMSA appeared destined to even the match and put some pressure on Frontier for the first time this postseason.

“I think they were putting a lot more pressure on us and we were making a few more mistakes than in the first set,” Sullivan said.

MacDonald called a timeout to right the ship, and his squad rebounded. What followed was an 11-1 run to seal the frame, with Scanlon serving the final six points for a 25-18 win.

“They’re a good team and they’re going to score a couple points in a row. I didn’t want to change anything,” MacDonald said of the timeout. “I thought they played really smart today. We really limited our errors. We were serving to spots we wanted to to try and disrupt their offense.”

It was all Frontier in the final stanza. Jillian Apanell’s block and a kill from Olivia Deane gave the Red Hawks a quick 5-1 advantage. Abbe Roberts tossed in an ace, and Deane took over late with four kills in a six-point span. Scanlon again served it out, and Morgan Martineau’s kill on match point secured the 25-9 victory to complete the sweep.

Despite playing a relative unknown team for the first time, MacDonald said the main focus in practice this week was not on a specific plan or strategy to slow down Deckers and the Eagles.

“I think we focus a lot on our side of the net,” he said. “That’s the thing we know a lot about. We know some of our strengths and our weaknesses, it’s a matter of, can we limit or try and hide some of weaknesses and play to our strengths.”

Deane had a team-high 13 kills to go with 10 digs, while Sullivan joined her in double figures with 12 kills. Apanell and Charlotte Doulette had two kills apiece, with setters Scanlon and Olivia Rosewarne dishing out 11 assists each. Frontier put down 10 aces as a team, three each from Scanlon and Isler.

The win improved Frontier’s record in state semifinals during its current 15-year run to 12-3. The Hawks will look to win their first state crown since 2017.

“I think there’s not a lot of pressure on them right now,” MacDonald said. “They aren’t supposed to be playing Saturday. They were feeling the pressure of the streak, (winning) Western Mass. They won that, now the pressure is off and they feel like they’re playing with house money a little bit. I’ve had teams that were young and weren’t supposed to be there and do really well. Those same ones, when they were seniors, felt a lot of stress and pressure because now they’re supposed to win. I don’t know a lot about Rockland. I think we’re going to be the underdog. I’m going to try and get some info on them but no matter what, I’m really proud of the girls.”




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