Class C boys volleyball: First-year Frontier captures WMass title via 5-set win over Southwick (PHOTOS)

  • The Frontier boys volleyball team after winning the Western Mass. Class C championship on Tuesday at Chicopee Comp High School. STAFF PHOTO/THOMAS JOHNSTON

  • The Frontier volleyball team celebrates after winning the Western Mass. Class C championship on Tuesday at Chicopee Comp High School. STAFF PHOTO/THOMAS JOHNSTON

  • STAFF PHOTO/THOMAS JOHNSTONThe Frontier volleyball team celebrates after winning the Western Mass. Class C championship on Tuesday at Chicopee Comp High School.

Staff Writer
Published: 5/31/2022 8:51:47 PM

CHICOPEE — It all changed for the Frontier boys volleyball team in the third set. 

Taking on Southwick in the Western Mass. Class C finals, the teams split the opening two sets before the Rams raced out to a commanding 22-12 lead in the third. The Redhawks didn’t quit, fighting back and eventually tying things up at 24 before Southwick scored the final two points to take a 26-24 set win and go ahead 2-1 in the match. 

While the third-set comeback fell short, it gave Frontier momentum going into the fourth, where it came away with a 25-17 win to force a fifth set. In the race to 15, the Redhawks took control midway through and ran away with a 15-8 victory, taking home the sectional title via a wild 3-2 victory. 

For a first year program, winning the Western Mass. title seemed unimaginable just a few months ago when a group of players came together to learn the sport of volleyball for the first time. 

“We were just hoping to make the playoffs,” Frontier co-coach Sean MacDonald said. “We had the right schedule for a first year team but we were just hoping to be around 8-8 in our 16 games. To be here is surreal. These boys haven’t done a lot of volleyball and I’m really proud of them. Everyone contributed to get us here today. They work their butts off.”

In the fifth set, it was Jesse Kurkulonis who brought his best to will Frontier (16-2) to victory. Kurkulonis — who finished the match with a team-high 20 kills — smashed a kill to put the Redhawks ahead 7-6. He then put down a kill to make it 12-8, made a block to put Frontier up 13-9 and crushed the final spike to close out the win. 

“It was just going all out,” Kurkulonis said. “We weren’t going to go down without a fight. We knew going in it was going to be tough. We kept calm and kept going. We aren’t a very experienced team.”

The top-seeded Redhawks came out firing on all cylinders in the opening set, taking a 16-15 lead and dominating the rest of the way to eventually earn a 25-17 victory. 

No. 2 Southwick turned the tables in the second set, racing out to a 22-12 lead. Frontier didn't let its opponent run away with it, clawing back and cutting the deficit to 23-20 but that was as close as it got as the Rams held on for a 25-21 set win. 

The comeback in the third changed the complexion of the match, and MacDonald said he was proud of the way his team continued to fight on the court. 

“They looked a little rattled in the middle of the match,” MacDonald said. “I didn’t think it was going to be a quick match either way. We lost the second set and I told them if we make it a long day, we’ll come out on top. We just have to keep pushing. If that third set went to 30 we had them. They showed some fight and some heart to tie it back up.” 

The fourth set was back-and-forth throughout before the Redhawks pulled away with it late, scoring nine of the final 10 points to tie things back up 2-2. 

“We had nothing to lose but we definitely had the pressure because being the No. 1 seed, we needed to win,” Kurkulonis said. “Going into the year we just wanted to win a few games and hopefully have some fun. We wanted to qualify for states which we did. This is unreal. I could have never thought of this.”

For co-coach Courtney Parent, getting to build a program with MacDonald has been a dream come true. 

“To start a program with Sean is so cool,” Parent said. “I played for Sean and it’s so cool to be coaching with him and learning from him because he’s been a huge part of my life. It’s so special. Not many people can say they got to start a program with Sean MacDonald from the ground up.” 

Patrick Boyden tallied eight kills, Aleks Carey had seven kills, Deter Ngawang and Jack Carey both put down four kills, Tavo Vincent-Warner dished 39 assists and Payton Sladeski came up with 12 digs in the win. 

MacDonald marveled at how far his players have come in a short amount of time, with the progress evident with each match played. 

“I look at the Carey boys and some of the others players, they were hardly hitting the ball and now they’re hitting a third of the court and we’re telling them where to serve,” MacDonald said. “It’s really cool to see the progress.” 

Frontier now gears up for the MIAA Div. 2 State Tournament, where it comes in as the No. 17 seed and will travel to play at No. 16 Minnechaug in the Round of 32 at a date and time to be determined. 

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