High school volleyball: Hawks preheating the oven

  • Olivia Deane, right, lunges for a ball during the Frontier girls volleyball practice Friday afternoon in South Deerfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Sydney Scanlon, right, tips the ball as Reilly Isler jumps to block during the Frontier girls volleyball practice Friday afternoon in South Deerfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Olivia Deane serves during the Frontier girls volleyball practice Friday afternoon in South Deerfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Abbe Roberts bumps the ball over during the Frontier girls volleyball practice Friday afternoon in South Deerfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Eve Dougan sets the ball during the Frontier girls volleyball practice Friday afternoon in South Deerfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Sydney Scanlon sets the ball during the Frontier girls volleyball practice Friday afternoon in South Deerfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 8/23/2019 9:00:10 PM
Modified: 8/23/2019 8:59:55 PM

SOUTH DEERFIELD — As Goodnow Gymnasium undergoes construction to add the Frontier volleyball team’s 14th consecutive WMass championship banner, the Red Hawks have begun their reconstruction on the court. The team is looking to reload and add another year of success to the storied program.

Going for a 15th straight title comes with its challenges. Frontier graduated five of its seven starters from a year ago, including two All-State players in outside hitter Lauren Davenport and middle hitter Ashley Telega.

The two remaining starters from last season are junior outside hitter Olivia Deane and junior libero Reilly Isler, but for head coach Sean MacDonald, who’s entering his 17th year running the program, having to rebuild is nothing new.

“It’s going to be a big adjustment from what we lost,” MacDonald said during a break in practice on Friday. “We lost a lot of offense. We lost our top three (players) in kills. That’s going to have to come from some place else. It’s not something new, people graduate all the time. It happens.”

While the team is younger, the goal of winning the WMass title remains the same.

The veteran MacDonald knows a championship team isn’t built overnight, and that a lot of work needs to be done to get his team to the place they want to be.

“We haven’t really talked about the goals yet because we don’t have the team picked yet, but they’re going to come back to me with that as one of their goals,” MacDonald said of winning another title. “Worrying about the streak is not my focus, it’s more about getting better every day at practice. If they practice the right things and they have the right principles and teaching methods, then we can get better faster and that streak might take care of itself. It’s just about improvement every day and getting kids to buy in and try to be competitive at practice so we know how to compete in matches.”

A varsity player since eighth grade, Deane knows what it takes to get to the championship match each year. 

She feels it comes down to the fundamentals, which MacDonald has begun instilling into the team during the early portion of the preseason. Frontier received loads of live, game-like reps during Friday’s practice.

“A really important element to us winning western Mass. championships is that we play really smart volleyball,” Deane said. “Our coach emphasizes that. When we’re at volleyball practice, we talk about more than just running and drills. We talk about rotations and strategic ways to take down our opponent which is key to our play.”

Along with Deane and Isler, senior Jalen Sullivan returns to the varsity squad and figures to step into a bigger role as an outside hitter.

The trio will take on a leadership role, with the rest of the team still sorting itself out as they sit just two practices into the fall campaign. 

“Jalen Sullivan has done a really good job of getting kids together and doing stuff over the summer,” MacDonald said. “Olivia is playing well, so is Reilly. Olivia is a hitter. That’s kind of the focus right now, getting the right people on the bus now because the bus is leaving, then finding out where everyone is going to sit later.”

While the team might not have much varsity experience together, the chemistry has been forming for years. Most of the girls have played together since middle school, and they have played together in summer league to help develop chemistry.

Being together for a summer gives players like Sullivan confidence that the hard work will pay off on the court in the fall. 

“As a team, we’re together all summer,” Sullivan said. “We go on a two-night vacation so we’re together for three full days. Everybody is super close and I think that helps us play better together because we know exactly what the other person wants and how they play.”

One of the keys to being a championship-level volleyball team is communication, which MacDonald stressed to the team during Friday’s practice. The communication has become second nature to the Red Hawks, which have a good understanding of each players’ strengths and where they’re going to be on the court.

“A lot of it comes from us being a really tight team and understanding each other, not just off the court but on the court,” Isler said. “When you have a lot of people you know and that you’ve practiced so much with, you can tell what they’re thinking without talking to them. It makes it so much easier to play a really good game with them.”

With the team focused on making another WMass run, the main concern remains just improving every day. 

“A lot of our goals are less focused on the games and more focused on practice,” Isler said. “We’ll talk about if we have a day where we have a tough practice that isn’t super productive, which does happen, we’ll talk about going into the next practice and going into a week where we have two or three games and go into practice and be more focused on what we need to do as a team.”

Frontier travels down to Cape Cod next weekend for a day-long tournament Saturday consisting of 40-minute matches, before taking the ferry over to Nantucket to scrimmage Nantucket High School on Sunday.

The team’s first regular-season match is Sept. 5 against Turners Falls in South Deerfield.




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