Soaring Red Hawks face Archies in semis
The Frontier Regional School girls’ volleyball team can accomplish the rarest of feats for an area team this week — something that only the Turners Falls High School softball team has ever done.
The Red Hawks (21-1), with two more wins, can become only the second team in the area to win three consecutive state championships in a sport. Turners won three straight softball crowns from 2004-06.
But first, Frontier will set its sights on state-tourney newcomer and South sectional champion Archbishop Williams High School of Braintree tonight at 7 in the state semifinals at Hudson High School.
If Frontier can advance, it will have another rematch in the state final. Lynnfield High School — Frontier’s state semifinal victim a year ago — advanced to Saturday’s noon championship match Tuesday night with a 25-6, 22-25, 25-22, 25-10 win over Millbury High School.
The Bishops (16-6) were a bit of a surprise qualifier, especially after perennial power Joseph Case High School was upset in the South quarterfinals and Ursuline Academy was swept by Holbrook High School in the semifinal.
First-year AW head coach Tricia Lewis runs a 6-2 setter system, with senior Christine Chase and junior Molly Meehan running the show. Chase has led the Bishops with 34 assists in the past two matches.
Meehan is also a capable hitter who’s second on the team in kills, behind freshman middle-hitter Katryna Veasey, who has recorded 16 put-aways in each of the last two matches. AW’s other main offensive option is junior middle-hitter Kerry Hanlon, who had 11 kills in the South semifinal.
Chase is the Bishops’ top server, while juniors Cait Kearney and Julie Bloomer are the top defenders.
“It seems like most of their offense is in the middle, along with Meehan when she is in the front,” said 10th-year Frontier head coach Sean MacDonald, who will go for his 220th career win tonight against just 15 losses. “From the information I was able to gather, they are a ball-control type of team that’s scrappy and keeps the ball off the floor. Having won four playoff matches, they seem to be hot at the right time.”
Frontier could find success on the outside attack. Senior All-State selection Cassidy Stankowski hammered home 12 kills in the Hawks’ Western Massachusetts championship victory over Mahar Regional School, and is usually the first option on the attack, but Frontier proved it was more than a one-trick pony as rapidly-improving junior Sarah Woodward fired away at will and finished with a team-high 14 kills against the Senators. Senior Kate Harper is also plenty capable of putting opponents on their heels, while 5-foot-11 All-State middle-hitter Julia Wan could create major problems for the Bishops, especially on defense with her blocking abilities.
Senior setter Tori Whitney will be back in the lineup to set up the hitters, while MacDonald can spot classmate Emma Contois and freshman Emily Woodward during the match to keep everyone fresh. The younger Woodward came in for Whitney during the final and finished the match with a team-high 12 assists.
Defense is always a six-player effort for the Red Hawks, because MacDonald knows it all starts with keeping the ball alive so that the setters can run the attack. All-State libero Ali Durant leads the squad in digs.
MacDonald didn’t expect to make any major adjustments, only to emphasize a complete effort from his team throughout the match.
“We need to take care of our side of the net,” said MacDonald. “If we minimize our errors, and pass and set consistently, we can play with anyone.”