Reigning 12-time champ Frontier No. 1 seed

  • Frontier’s Ella Deane (20) sets to a teammate as Melrose’s Saoirse Connolly (13) jumps to block during regular-season action for the top-seeded, 12-time defending-champion Red Hawks. RECORDER file photo/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier outside hitter Lauren Davenport (2) can be a force at the net, as displayed here during regular-season action against Melrose RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Turners Falls’ Sienna Dillensneider (15) sets the ball as teammates Dabney Rollins (7) and Emma Miner (16) look on during regular-season action for the 11-the-seeded Warriors. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

Recorder Staff
Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The road to a Western Mass. Division III girls’ volleyball title will once again go through South Deerfield.

Twelve-time defending WMass champion Frontier Regional School drew the top seed in the upcoming Div. III Tournament, and will have home-court advantage until a potential championship match, as the seeds and brackets were released Tuesday at Agawam High School.

Frontier (12-8), which finished in a tie for first place in the Eastern Division this fall with Longmeadow High School, received a first-round bye and will wait until Monday before opening its title defense in the quarterfinals against the winner of No. 8 Mahar Regional School (14-6) and No. 9 Mount Greylock Regional High School (10-9). That first-round match will be played Thursday night in Orange at 6:30 p.m., as the Senators edged Greylock by just 0.34 points in the Walker System to earn the home match instead of a lengthy bus ride to the Berkshires.

Top-seeded Frontier enters the tournament after dropping its final four matches of the season, including Monday night’s regular-season finale loss to Lee High School (17-1) in a five-set rematch of last year’s WMass championship. The two teams finished extremely close for the top seed, with Frontier’s Walker System rating (123.00) barely edging Lee (122.43).

“I thought we would be (No. 2) after the loss to Lee so I was a little surprised,” offered Frontier coach Sean MacDonald. “To me, it really didn’t matter. I don’t care if we’re 1 or 2, you play at home until (the finals at Holyoke Community College) as either seed.”

Although four losses to end the season isn’t exactly what the Red Hawks were looking for entering the postseason, the winners (Westborough High School, Hopkinton High School, Amherst Regional High School and Lee) all have solid chances to win their respective sectional titles.

“It’s not optimal to lose your last four matches going into playoffs, but those are four extremely respectable teams,” said MacDonald. “I definitely think we have a few thing to polish up. We made a lot of errors against Lee, but I feel pretty good. We’ll try and refocus a little bit.”

After winning the Northern Division with a sterling 17-3 record, Turners Falls High School was the highest local seed behind Frontier. The Powertown is seeded fourth in the field, and will open up Thursday night at home in a first-round contest against No. 13 Southwick Regional High School (10-10) at 6:30. The two teams didn’t meet during the regular-season. The Rams finished as the runner-up in the Metro Division this fall.

“We worked hard all season long and I’m very happy to have gotten the fourth seed,” said Turners Falls head coach Kelly Liimatainen.

Mohawk Trail Regional High School earned the No. 11 seed. The Warriors (9-9) open their postseason with a first-round road match at No. 6 South Hadley High School (14-4) Friday night at 6:30. Mohawk, which is led by talented middle hitter Lexi Mazza, dropped a four-set match to the Tigers during the season.

Athol High School (10-10) is the last local team in the field. The 12th-seeded Red Raiders travel to play No. 5 Easthampton High School (13-3) in a first-round match Friday night at 6:30. Setter Julia Ramos and hitter Hannah Lajoie help set the table for the Raiders, which lost in three sets to Easthampton during the regular season.

Frontier, Lee and No. 3 Lenox Memorial High School were the three schools to earn first-round byes in the 13-team Div. III field.

Despite being the top-seeded team in the field, Frontier is relatively unfamiliar with its impending competition. The Hawks played just two of their 20 matches this year against teams in the field, losing to Lee and beating Athol.