Boys volleyball: Carey twins help power Frontier past Belchertown in straight sets (PHOTOS)

Frontier’s Aleks Carey (18) registers a kill against Belchertown in the second set Tuesday in Belchertown.

Frontier’s Aleks Carey (18) registers a kill against Belchertown in the second set Tuesday in Belchertown. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Belchertown’s Zach Dragon (23) attacks at the net against Frontier in the first set Tuesday in Belchertown.

Belchertown’s Zach Dragon (23) attacks at the net against Frontier in the first set Tuesday in Belchertown. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Belchertown’s (18) serves against Frontier in the third set Tuesday in Belchertown.

Belchertown’s (18) serves against Frontier in the third set Tuesday in Belchertown. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Belchertown’s Noah Yankson (15) attacks at the net against Frontier in the third set Tuesday in Belchertown.

Belchertown’s Noah Yankson (15) attacks at the net against Frontier in the third set Tuesday in Belchertown. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Belchertown’s Noah Yankson (15) attacks at the net against Frontier in the second set Tuesday in Belchertown.

Belchertown’s Noah Yankson (15) attacks at the net against Frontier in the second set Tuesday in Belchertown. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Frontier’s Jack Carey (13) attacks at the net as Belchertown’s Rainer Kristensen (18) and Shea MacLean (22) move to block in the second set Tuesday in Belchertown.

Frontier’s Jack Carey (13) attacks at the net as Belchertown’s Rainer Kristensen (18) and Shea MacLean (22) move to block in the second set Tuesday in Belchertown. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Frontier’s Aleks Carey (18) serves against Belchertown in the third set Tuesday in Belchertown.

Frontier’s Aleks Carey (18) serves against Belchertown in the third set Tuesday in Belchertown. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Belchertown’s Brian Burns (21) attacks at the net against Frontier in the second set Tuesday in Belchertown.

Belchertown’s Brian Burns (21) attacks at the net against Frontier in the second set Tuesday in Belchertown. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Frontier’s Aleks Carey (18) registers a kill against Belchertown in the first set Tuesday in Belchertown.

Frontier’s Aleks Carey (18) registers a kill against Belchertown in the first set Tuesday in Belchertown. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Frontier’s Jack Carey (13) attacks at the net as Belchertown’s Rainer Kristensen (18) and Shea macLean (22) move to block in the second set Tuesday in Belchertown.

Frontier’s Jack Carey (13) attacks at the net as Belchertown’s Rainer Kristensen (18) and Shea macLean (22) move to block in the second set Tuesday in Belchertown. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

By GARRETT COTE

Staff Writer

Published: 05-07-2024 7:50 PM

BELCHERTOWN — Throughout the entire offseason, Frontier senior Aleks Carey worked tirelessly to improve as a middle hitter so he could come back and dominate his position.

When the season started, it became evident Carey was one of the best passers on the Redhawks roster. Instead of keeping Carey at middle hitter, co-head coach Sean MacDonald switched him to outside hitter and kept him in all six rotations.

That choice has certainly paid off this spring, and it showed on Tuesday evening.

Carey ended each of the match’s three sets with an emphatic kill as part of his 16 on the night, and also recorded nine digs and three blocks to help Frontier defeat Belchertown 3-0 (25-21, 25-22, 25-16) for its third win in four matches.

“He’s come so far,” MacDonald said of Carey. “He’s noticeably better from last year. He practiced playing middle all in the offseason, then we switched him because his passing has been really good. So we wanted him in all six rotations, and putting him in a spot where we can set him.”

Any time the Redhawks needed a crucial point, they would set either Aleks Carey or Jack Carey, the two tallest players on the court and twin brothers. It worked a lot more than it didn’t, with Jack also putting down 10 kills of his own.

But Frontier did a lot of its damage behind the service line on Tuesday. Jack Carey tallied four aces, Will Petrin and Evan Maio had two aces apiece, and Tavo Vincent-Warner and Aleks Carey each had one. The Redhawks worked specifically on serving during practice on Monday, and having already played Belchertown (a 3-1 win on April 27) earlier this season gave them a good idea on where to go with the ball.

Even if its serves didn’t result in an ace, Frontier received a healthy amount of free balls coming back in its direction – which helped Vincent-Warner (26 assists) set up the Carey brothers.

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“We really focused on serving zones yesterday and where to serve and who to serve at,” co-head coach Courtney Parent said. “We played [Belchertown] once already, so we used some of the information from the first time that made a difference in a 3-0 win versus a 3-1 win.”

On the other side, Belchertown was well in the mix during sets one and two, and held a 20-19 lead in the second frame before being outscored 6-3 over the next nine points.

Of those six Frontier points, half of them came via self-inflicted errors from the Orioles. Belchertown did a better job than most teams when it comes to digging up the Careys’ spikes, which led to Rainer Kristensen (29 assists) setting up hitters Shea MacLean (10 kills), Zach Dragon (seven kills), Brian Burns (six kills) and Noah Yankson (five kills).

But too many times the Orioles were plagued by unforced hitting errors, and Frontier took advantage.

“We always talk about physical and mental toughness, and we’re there physically,” Belchertown head coach Chris Shea said. “But mentally, sometimes we miss a cue here or there and it snowballs. Our saying is, ‘Onto the next,’ and they buy into it, but it does snowball. The only way to get better is by overcoming that. We’re afraid of making mistakes sometimes. We all need to be a little more consistent. But they’re so much better with it now than they were at the beginning of the year. I’m proud of these kids.”

With those 29 assists from Kristensen, the Orioles lone senior, the setter now sits just seven shy of 1,000 for his career.

Belchertown has another home match this week, on Thursday against East Longmeadow. The captain, in all likelihood, will eclipse that milestone then, which will mean a lot to not only him, but his head coach.

“He’s the only four-year player I’ve had,” Shea said. “This is my fourth year coaching, and he was a freshman my first year. He’s done a phenomenal job all year, and he’s probably the smartest guy in the building.”

Frontier and Belchertown are in the PVIAC East league, one of the most competitive leagues in western Mass. The Redhawks are in their first year in the league. The transition has seen them go from a 19-win team last spring, to a five-win team this spring.

The Orioles have won just one match, coming on Monday against Veritas Prep. Both teams are better than their record shows, and they’re hoping to win a couple more matches to improve their rankings in the Western Mass. and state tournaments.

“We’ve got a completely different schedule, like Belchertown, this year,” MacDonald said. “We’re both over our heads. We were 19-3 last year, and we didn’t drop 15 games worth of talent. We have seven matches in the top 10 teams of Division 2 this year. I feel for Belchertown, we’re in the same boat. They are a way better team than their record shows.”

Frontier (5-10) travels to Longmeadow on Thursday at 5:30 p.m.