Hawks try for baker’s dozen

  • Frontier's Lauren Davenport (2) serves against Turners Falls in the first set on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017 in South Deerfield. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier's Selayna Bathurst (14) jumps up for a hit against Turners Falls in the first set on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017 in South Deerfield. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier libero Brianna Thurber lunges at the ball Wednesday night when the Red Hawks punched their ticket to tonight’s WMass Division III championship match with a straight set win over Turners. The Hawks face Lee in the finals tonight at 7 at Holyoke Community College. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

Recorder Staff
Friday, November 10, 2017

For the third year in a row, the Frontier Regional School volleyball team’s quest for a Western Mass. Division III championship will go through Lee High School.

The top-seeded Red Hawks, seeking their 13th consecutive sectional title, meet No. 2 Lee tonight at 7 p.m. at Holyoke Community College’s Bartley Center in the WMass Div. III championship match. It’s the third straight year the teams have played in the finals, with Frontier winning the previous two meetings. That included a wild five-set affair last year.

“Lee was very good last year,” recalled Frontier coach Sean MacDonald of the 2016 meeting. “They beat us in the regular season and we had an all-out five-set match in the WMass finals. I really think they felt like that was their year and they lost quite a few pieces from that team. But they’re right back where they were (in the finals). In some ways, they’re just as good and in some ways, I think they’re better. That’s a credit to how hard those girls worked in the offseason.”

The Wildcats (19-1) enter tonight’s match with some confidence. The two teams met less than two weeks ago in the regular season, with Lee coming to South Deerfield and capturing a 3-2 win. Since then, the Wildcats needed five sets to edge Wahconah Regional High School in the Div. III quarterfinals, before knocking off Lenox Memorial High School, 3-1, in the semifinals.

Frontier (14-8) has bounced back nicely since the loss to Lee. After receiving a first-round bye into the quarterfinals, the Hawks swept Mount Greylock Regional High School and then Turners Falls High School to punch their ticket to another WMass title match.

“We’ve been focused on working to clean up some of the things that we felt we could’ve improved on (in the regular-season loss),” MacDonald offered. “We’re trying to simulate some of the things Lee does in practice. I think the girls will be pretty motivated to flip the result from that last time we saw them. We were hoping to be back in the finals and we figured Lee was going to be there on the other half of the bracket. So now we’re looking for the opportunity to try and change the result.”

Frontier earned a share of the highly-competitive PVIAC Eastern Division regular-season this fall. In addition to a tough slate of league matches, MacDonald challenged his team with independent contests against the likes of Hopkinton High School, Westborough High School, Notre Dame Academy and Melrose High School. 

Junior Lauren Davenport has paced the offense for Frontier this season, compiling a team-high 276 kills. Senior Selayna Bathurst was second on the team with 154 kills, followed by junior Ashley Telega with 109 kills.

Senior setter Ella Deane has compiled another stellar season with 562 assists, giving her 1,310 assists for her career. Bathurst (206), Davenport (162) and Deane (155) also lead the team in digs, while Telega is the team’s top blocker with 15 solo denials.

Lee is powered by first-year setter Suriana Lee and offensive threats like Bailey Thomas, Ahna Schlaefer and Lydia Morawiec. The trio of hitters combined for 23 kills in the semifinal win over Lenox, while Suriana Lee dished out 23 assists. MacDonald said libero Anna Wang is one of the best at her position in the division.

“They serve tough. They put pressure on you from the service line and they’ve got some size,” MacDonald said of Lee. “It’s hard to put the ball down on them because they can block well. And if you do get it past them, their floor defense is solid as well.”

While last year’s Frontier team was comprised of an almost brand-new unit after heavy losses to graduation, MacDonald said the fact that he returned just about his entire rotation this year is key. After going through the postseason ups and downs en route to a WMass title, and state runner-up showing, he knows that experience is now an asset for his club.

“You can’t buy that kind of experience,” he said of the 2016 postseason run. “You can’t go to a volleyball camp or clinic in the summer and buy the experience of what it feels like to play in the fifth set of a WMass finals or come back from 0-2 deficit against Millbury or play in the state finals.

“If we get into a close match, we’ve been there before,” he continued. “They have that confidence of they’re never out of it and it’s never over until the final point. I’d prefer not getting into fifth sets, but if you do, I feel like we can draw on that. But so does Lee. They’ve been in the WMass finals three years in a row so they’re no stranger to the stage either. I think it’ll be a really even match.”

The winner of tonight’s match will advance to the MIAA Div. III state semifinal against the winner of the Central Mass. Div. III title tilt between top-seeded Hopedale High School (20-2) and No. 3 Whitinsville Christian School (19-4).