Frontier boys volleyball takes home second straight WMass title with win over Southwick (PHOTOS)

By THOMAS JOHNSTON

Staff Writer

Published: 05-28-2023 12:56 PM

CHICOPEE — Not many programs can claim they won a Western Mass. championship in their first two years of existence. 

The Frontier boys volleyball team can, however. 

The top-seeded Redhawks knocked off Southwick in the Western Mass. Class C championship match a season ago, and the Rams were back again for a rematch in the Class C title tilt on Saturday. 

No. 3 Southwick got out to strong starts in the opening two sets but Frontier battled back to take a 2-0 lead. The Rams came out on top in the third set but the Redhawks rebounded to win the fourth set and take home their second straight title with a 3-1 victory at Chicopee Comprehensive High School. 

“I have a pretty good imagination but I don’t think [winning back-to-back championships] would have been a realistic goal,” Frontier co-coach Sean MacDonald said. “Moving into this season our goal was to win this tournament again and win a game in the state tournament. I’m proud of them. Things weren’t going as easy as we would have liked and that’s a credit to Southwick. They played hard.” 

Seniors like Jesse Kurkulonis, who has been part of the first two seasons of the program, hopes that the back-to-back titles help set the standard for the program, and allows it to grow for years to come. 

“This feels great,” Kurkulonis said. “This is a natural high. It’s not a surprise because we’ve really worked hard to accomplish this again. We wanted to defend our Class C title. It was nerve-racking. We beat them in five sets [in last year’s final] so they came in here trying to destroy us.” 

Winning consecutive Western Mass. titles doesn’t happen by accident. It takes hard work, dedication and a willingness to learn, which co-coach Courtney Parent said are traits her players have. 

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“The guys have been working hard in the gym,” Parent said. “Sean has been doing a lot of scouting and making sure the guys know what to expect. The guys have listened well at practice and done what we’ve put forth.” 

It was Southwick (11-8) that raced out to a 4-0 lead in the opening set. The Redhawks (18-2) got back into it with kills from Kurkulonis, Brady Burch and Asa Jackson that gave then a 14-10 lead. The Rams then fought back to tie things at 20, but Frontier scored five of the final six points to take a 1-0 lead with a 25-21 set win. 

The second set was back-and-forth throughout, with Frontier holding onto a 24-22 lead late. Southwick stormed back to win the next two points and knot things at 24. Both teams traded points to tie things at 25 before the Rams began to hold advantage, taking a 26-25 lead but the Redhawks responded with a point. 

Southwick gained the lead once again but Frontier didn’t allow it to notch the two-point lead, with Kurkulonis putting down a kill to tie things at 27. Burch put down a kill to give the Redhawks the lead and a Ram error allowed Frontier to take a 2-0 lead with a 29-27 set win. 

“We had to come from behind in those first two sets,” MacDonald said. “What was frustrating with set one was we had four hitting errors, two serving errors. I’ve always said volleyball isn’t a sport; it’s a math problem. If you can reduce your errors, it increases the number of kills they need to get. In the first two sets we didn’t make them earn enough points.” 

Tied 15-15 in the third set, the Rams put three straight points up to take command and never surrendered the lead, staying alive with a 25-20 win. 

Frontier pulled away in the fourth set however. Tied 13-13 the Redhawks scored 12 of the final 15 points to earn the victory with a 25-16 triumph. 

“We talked a lot this year about their mental game and today they stepped that up,” Parent said. “They stayed focus. Points are going to go back and forth but they did a good job of moving on after mistakes.” 

It was a group effort to stay together throughout the match, as the Rams never made it easy on the Redhawks. 

“We kept our heads in it,” Kurkulonis said. “After we made a mistake, we cleared it. It was history. We kept working hard and went after every ball that was near us.”

Kurkulonis led the way with 16 kills in the win. Aleks Carey put down 11 kills, Jack Carey smashed eight kills while Burch and Owen Babb each tallied six kills, Tavo Vincent-Warner distributed 44 assists while Ngawang Deter came up with 20 digs for Frontier. 

The Redhawks now await their seed and matchup in the MIAA Div. 2 state tournament. 

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