Hawks capture fourth straight state crown, 3-1
The Frontier Regional School girls’ volleyball team erupts in celebration moments after winning their fourth consecutive Division III State Volleyball championship Saturday with a 25-20, 25-15, 20-25, 25-22 victory over Fairhaven High School at Algonquin Regional High School in Northborough.
NORTHBOROUGH — Sure, they came into this season having won three straight Division III state volleyball titles, but the girls on the Frontier Regional School volleyball team still felt like they had something to prove.
Namely: No Cassidy, no problem.
On Saturday the Red Hawks did just that, not relying heavily on any one player, but using a combined effort from all seven that were on the court en route to a 25-20, 25-15, 20-25, 25-22 victory over Fairhaven High School in the Division III state final at Algonquin Regional High School.
And oh yeah, they made a little history in the process.
Frontier became the first Franklin County team to win four consecutive state titles regardless of sport. What made the win even sweeter for the girls’ was the fact that there were no returning starters from the 2012 team. That included the absence of Massachusetts Player of the Year Cassidy Stankowski, who some felt was the lone factor for the Red Hawks winning the past three years.
“A lot of people didn’t think we could get here, but we all knew that we could win,” Red Hawk libero Haley Dacyczyn said. “Cassidy is an amazing player and you can’t take that away from her. I think the difference this year was that we didn’t have that go-to person. If we had a big point to win, we needed to figure out who was on. We couldn’t just go to Cassidy. We got really close as a team and it was an entire team effort, even the girls on the bench, there are some really good players there too.”
Frontier senior outside hitter Sarah Woodward admitted that the doubt brought onto the team by the graduation of Stankowski from the past three state title champions helped fuel the Hawks. Not only was Stankowski not on the court, but four of the seven players that played Saturday were not factors in last year’s state title win.
“Honestly, the only reason we are here today is because we were pushed by people’s doubt of us,” Woodward began. “This whole season we were told that we wouldn’t win western Mass., we wouldn’t win the states, we wouldn’t do very well. Then, after we didn’t win the league, we wanted this that much more. We wanted to prove people wrong. We worked hard all season and I’m in total shock right now.”
The Red Hawks got contributions from all seven players on the day. Woodward led the team with 15 kills and added 11 digs, while Cassidy Ciesluk finished second with 12 kills. Emily Woodward finished with a team-high 40 assists, Dacyczyn collected a team-leading 18 digs, Remi Quesnelle paced the team with four aces and added five kills, Sarah Conlisk finished with nine kills and three digs, and Courtney Newsome added four kills.
“We have so many different hitters, it’s like we’re all equal,” Newsome said. “Last year was different, because we had Cassidy and she was so much better than everyone else. Now, we’re all so equal, there’s not one person that controls everything.”
One major factor entering the game was how the Red Hawks (20-4) were going to handle Fairhaven outside hitter Katie Leidhold, who is in the same mold as Stankowski, and should be a finalist for the Massachusetts Player of the Year. Leidhold was coming off a 15-kill effort in Fairhaven’s state semifinal win over Lynnfield High School. While she did get her share of highlight-reel kills on the day, the Hawks managed to keep her to just 10 kills in the end, for an average of just 2.5 per set.
“I feel like we did OK against her,” Frontier coach Sean MacDonald said. “We didn’t stop her, but nobody is going to stop her.”
The match started out evenly, with neither team putting together any long string of serves in the first set. The largest lead of the early-going belonged to Fairhaven, which went up 13-10 following a kill by Macy Roderick. That prompted a timeout from MacDonald, and the speech sparked the Hawks, who went on to tie the score at 16-16 and then took control of the match behind four consecutive service points from Sarah Woodward. Later, with Frontier leading 24-20 and Dacyczyn serving, Ciesluk had one of her 12 kills to close out the first-set win. Ciesluk led the team with five kills in the opening set.
The momentum carried over into the second set, when Frontier took control early and was never really threatened, winning its easiest set of the day 25-15. Ciesluk had four more kills in the second set, while Woodward chipped in three as she began to catch fire.
“I was really nervous,” Ciesluk said of the start. “I was so nervous, I don’t really even remember the first set. We knew they were going to be a really tough team, so coming out and winning the first two sets was really awesome.”
Frontier looked like it was on its way in the third set with a 15-10 lead at one point, but Fairhaven (22-2) began to claw its way back into the match. Leidhold notched a pair of kills in the comeback, while Harleigh Becotte had two blocks and one kill. Leidhold would eventually serve four straight points to give the Blue Devils a 21-18 lead, and the team would close out the set on one of Mariah Nicholas’ 13 kills for a 25-20 win. That got Fairhaven’s fans back into the match, and set a bit of doubt into the minds of the Frontier players.
“I was really nervous,” Conlisk said. “I thought if we didn’t win this one, we might not win the last one. I just wanted us to push, push, push, and give it everything we had.”
Both teams did that in the fourth, but Frontier got a huge boost as Quesnelle and Ciesluk combined to win five points on serve in the early going to stake the Hawks to a 9-4 lead. Fairhaven would come back in the set, eventually taking a 15-14 lead, but Quesnelle served five straight points to put Frontier up 20-15 and the Hawks would never trail again. The match ended with an ace from Emily Woodward for the 25-22 finish.
“This one is really sweet for me,” MacDonald concluded. “There’s no All-American on this team. There’s no Gatorade Player of the Year on this team. There’s just a bunch of regular, pretty good players that worked hard and worked well together as a team. And there’s some really good players on the bench that you didn’t see today.”
Sarah Woodward and Dacyczyn are the only two seniors who saw action on Saturday, leaving the Frontier program in good shape for a fifth title run.