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Stankowski makes it official: Central Connecticut State

SOUTH DEERFIELD — Yes, she made up her mind a year ago, but Cassidy Stankowski made it official Wednesday afternoon: come next fall, she’ll be a Blue Devil.

Surrounded by a small gathering, including sister Alyssa and parents Sue and Jack, Stankowski made good on her verbal commitment and signed a National Letter-of-Intent Wednesday to accept a volleyball scholarship to Central Connecticut State University.

“It’s a little emotional, for sure,” said Stankowski, who added that she also considered Connecticut and New Hampshire. “Once I visited Central, I kind of knew that was where I belonged and that’s where I wanted to go.”

Stankowski’s signing with the New Britain, Conn., school is the first major Division I commitment by a volleyball player in Frontier’s rich history, which includes 13 western Massachusetts titles and four state crowns.

“Their assistant coach (Greg Shell) showed me around and I just loved the school,” said Stankowski, who plans to study athletic training. “It’s not huge, like UConn, so I like that part of it. And it’s just over an hour away, which is important because I can be near my family. My parents like that, and Alyssa and I are really close.”

Stankowski, a 5-foot-8 outside hitter, could potentially make an immediate impact because the Blue Devils will graduate three outside hitters.

CCSU head coach Linda Sagnelli cannot comment on the signing under NCAA rules. Once the school receives her paperwork, they forward it to the NCAA Clearinghouse, which must confirm the eligibility of all student-athletes before schools can announce the names of recruits.

Stankowski is unquestionably the best and most decorated volleyball player in Franklin County history, arguably one of the best western Massachusetts has ever seen.

She started her varsity career in seventh grade as a libero and quickly vaulted to stardom, earning a spot on the Massachusetts Girls’ Volleyball Coaches Association Division III All-Star Team as a freshman, one of the few ninth-graders ever selected.

Her career took off during a sophomore campaign that saw the Red Hawks dominate their competition en route to a third state title and the county’s first 26-0 season in a team sport. That season included a five-set victory over Division I juggernaut Barnstable High School — a 14-time state champion and the gold standard for volleyball excellence in the state — and a 3-0 win over then defending Division I state champion New Bedford High School, snapping the Whalers’ 32-match winning streak. They also beat both teams in the Hall of Fame Tournament later that season.

As a junior, Stankowski battled through an injury during the latter past of the season to help Frontier go 23-1 and win the state title against Joseph Case High School of Swansea in a five-set thriller — arguably one of the greatest state final matches ever contested.

Stankowski completed this regular season by being named a North Division All-Star for a fifth straight time, as well as earning a fourth straight berth on the All-State team, that in spite of missing part of the season to rest a nagging leg injury.

A four-year team captain, Stankowski has also been named to the All-America Team for the past two seasons, and became the first area volleyball player ever to be named 2011-12 Gatorade State Player of the Year.

Stankowski owns almost every career statistical record at Frontier, including 1,450 kills, 1,130 digs and 364 aces before Wednesday’s state semifinals match against Archbishop Williams High School of Braintree.

“Cassidy has set records at Frontier that will never be touched,” said Hawks head coach Sean MacDonald. “It has been an absolute privilege to know her and her family and to be a part of her journey. She has been the perfect example of natural ability mixed with hard work and thousands of hours of practice to achieve the success and accolades.”

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