Girls volleyball preview: Sean MacDonald prepares for final season coaching defending state champion Frontier

Frontier players storm the court after scoring the final point against Mt. Greylock to win the MIAA Div. 5 state championship 3-0 last fall at Worcester State University.

Frontier players storm the court after scoring the final point against Mt. Greylock to win the MIAA Div. 5 state championship 3-0 last fall at Worcester State University. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Mount Greylock's Julia DeChaine spikes the ball during a match against Turners Falls in the Western Massachusetts Class D Volleyball tournament in West Springfield last fall.

Mount Greylock's Julia DeChaine spikes the ball during a match against Turners Falls in the Western Massachusetts Class D Volleyball tournament in West Springfield last fall. PHOTO BY GILLIAN JONES/BERKSHIRE EAGLE

By THOMAS JOHNSTON

Staff Writer

Published: 09-07-2023 4:44 PM

The Sean MacDonald era with the Frontier girls volleyball team is coming to an end at the conclusion of this season.

MacDonald — who has won 11 state titles with the Redhawks, the second most for any program in the Commonwealth — said he plans for this to be his final season leading Frontier, as he plans to focus on other things in the fall moving forward.

“This will be my last season with the girls,” MacDonald said. “I’ll be there in the spring [with the Frontier boys volleyball team] if they choose to have me. I just think it’s time. I love what I do and the people I do it with. Those things haven’t changed. There’s some other things I’d like to do in the fall and I have other priorities in life. I graduated from Mahar myself but I do feel like I’m a Redhawk for life.”

The Redhawks earned that 11th state title last season in dramatic fashion, storming back from a 2-0 deficit against Paulo Freire in the semis to move on to the finals, where it knocked off Mt. Greylock to capture the championship.

Five of the seven starters — Sydney Scanlon, Jillian Appanel, Eve Dougan, Brooke Davis and Samantha Baker — from the state title team graduated, with Frontier set to look much different this fall, though as it seems to do every year, a fresh batch of players will move into the varsity lineup and are ready to go.

Senior Caroline Deane, who was named to the All-State team last season, will be the top weapon on the outside for the Redhawks. Fellow seniors Kate DeMaio and Gabby Adams also had roles for the Redhawks last fall and will be asked to take another step forward this season, DeMaio as a middle hitter and Adams as an outside/middle hitter.

Senior Aliana Pierce has the task of replacing Scanlon, who finished her career with over 1,500 assists, as the setter. Olivia Machon, Ariana Miller, Abby Hernandez, Hannah Davis and Melanie Ring were a few of the other names that MacDonald said would be competing for roles this season.

“The four seniors will all play crucial roles for us,” MacDonald said. “Aliana will get the first crack at setter and she’s doing well so far. We’re definitely going to look different and we’ll work out the kinks. When we look good, we look good. Now we just need to see it against another team.”

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Two firms eye First National Bank in Greenfield for reuse
Invasive species mile-a-minute vine found again in Buckland
Alleged hit-and-run crash in Greenfield sends one to hospital
My Turn: Biden’s record and accomplishments are extremely positive
Franklin County transitions to new interoperable radio system
‘No one like him’: Family, friends remember late historian at ice cream social in his honor

If the Redhawks plan to send MacDonald out with another state title, they will have to do so in a higher division.

Frontier moved up to Div. 4 from Div. 5 this season, though there won’t be any excuses with the step up in competition around South Deerfield. After all, the Redhawks compete in the Eastern League along with Longmeadow (Div. 2), Amherst (Div. 3), Westfield (Div. 2), Minnechaug (Div. 2) and recently added Springfield Central (Div. 1), all of which are in higher divisions than Frontier to begin with.

Throw in non-league matches against Turners, Nantucket, Nauset, Agawam, Melrose, Westborough, Dennis-Yarmouth and Athol and the Redhawks will be plenty prepared for what Div. 4 has to offer. Frontier went 2-0 against Nantucket and Nauset to open its 2023 slate last weekend.

“We play where they tell us to play,” MacDonald said. “When there were three divisions we ran into most of these teams. Rockland is in Division 4 and we played them in a state final. Case is Division 4 and we played them four times in a row in states. There’s some good teams in Division 4.”

When you win as much as Frontier does, the expectations are always going to be high. That’s the case once again this year, despite a brand new roster.

“We always want to win our league and win Western Mass.,” MacDonald said. “Our league will be tough... there’s some really good teams. We don’t want to shoot too low but we want to be realistic. We have a lot of new pieces. I could see us there at the end but you just don’t know. We have a lot of good volleyball players who are returning but a lot of these players haven’t been relied upon to really do it. They’ve been cheering on the bench and were put in games only in comfortable situations. They’ll be thrown into uncomfortable spots this year and we’ll see how it goes.”

 Athol

COACH: Donna Lajoie

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Northern/5

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 9-11

ROSTER: Hanisha Castillo-Vargas, Andy Colon-Gonzalez, Tessa Dupray-Duquette, Anna Duquette, Laney Florentino, Aubrey Fortin, Kahlen Gregory, Aby Lutz, Olivia Mayer, Evie Robinson, Karol Rodriguez, Abby Spooner, Giana Vaillancourt, Alma White

OUTLOOK: Florentino and White, both seniors, have been consistent performers for the Bears, both splitting time as setters and hitters. Duquette is a player to watch, making strides following a club season while Mayer is another player Lajoie said has improved since last season. Lutz will step into the libero role while Vaillancourt, a freshman, is someone Lajoie called a “natural volleyball talent.”

FC Tech

COACH: Jade Cuevas

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Northern/5

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 14-8, lost in Div. 5 Round of 32

ROSTER: Lea Chapman, Brooke Smith, Haleigh Benoit, Abigail Carlo, Kristine Given, Hannah Hackett, Brynn Mullen, Shelby O’Leary, Lily Joseph, Skylei LaPan, Emma Little, Jenna Petrowicz, Emma Petersen

OUTLOOK: The Eagles have made the Div. 5 state tournament each of the last two years, and with two seniors and six juniors on the roster, Tech will be hoping to make it three in a row this fall. Chapman, a senior, will be the Eagles’ top weapon in the middle while fellow senior Smith will play on the outside.

Frontier

COACH: Sean MacDonald

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Eastern/4

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 23-1, won Div. 5 state championship

ROSTER: Gabrielle Adams, Caroline Deane, Kate Demaio, Aliana Pierce, Emilie Candelaria, Hannah Davis, Abigail Hernandez, Olivia Machon, Ariana Miller, Sophia Pinardi, Melanie Ring, Rozalyn Schempp, Parrish Stilla, Greta Hale, Caitlin Maio, Bailey Martin

Greenfield

COACH: Lisa Moore

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Northern/5

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 4-14

ROSTER: Addison Rotkiewicz, Eliza Chattman, Mackensie Goncalves, Stella Verlander, Paloma Cruz-Lopez, Julia Belville, Savannah Aldrich, Giomaris Collado-Bonilla, Odyssea Camero-Rivera

OUTLOOK: Moore is entering her 30th year coaching the Green Wave, bringing plenty of experience to the table. Verlander does a little bit of everything for Greenfield, lining up as a middle hitter, outside hitter and setter. Belville, a sophomore, is one to watch as a middle hitter as is Camero-Rivera, a freshman setter. Rotkiewicz and Chattman are the Greenfield seniors.

Mahar

COACH: Maeve Powell

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Northern/5

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 1-16

ROSTER: Madelynn Burgess, Brianna Dicato, Mia Santana, Kayla Quinn, Kamryn Hart, Jalie Codrington, Scarleth Aranda Lebron, Mckenzie Scribner, Delana Fausett, Hayden Comeau, Turin Gurganus

OUTLOOK: The Senators will look to turn things around in Powell’s second year coaching the team. Scribner, Fausett, Santana, Dicato and Burgess were all key contributors for Mahar last year and will once again be key cogs this fall. The club picked up a five-set win over Pioneer in its opener earlier this week.

Mohawk Trail

COACH: Sherri Lannon

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Northern/5

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 10-8, lost in Div. 5 prelims

ROSTER: Grace Davenport, Riley Giard, Sophia Goodnow, Maddie Cosentino, Jackson Lilienthal, Shelby Collier, Palmer King, Jadelyn Wheeler, Adrian Grant, Emma Canaday, Abby Moffatt

OUTLOOK: The Warriors qualified for the Div. 5 tournament a season ago and bring back eight players from that roster. King returns as the Mohawk Trail setter, Moffatt, an eighth grader, has impressed as a serving specialist while Wheeler has been strong as the libero. Davenport, Giard, Goodnow, Consentino, Lilienthal and Collier round out the seniors with experience.

Pioneer

COACH: Shannon Connolly

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Northern/5

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 2-13

ROSTER: Avery Johnson, Aiden Wall, Kayla Gauthier, Erin Killay, Roslynn Moore, Oceana Duclos, Jacobia Tyminski, Abbie Ray, Emma Strong

OUTLOOK: The Panthers have experience, with five seniors on the roster. Wall played for a club team and has impressed during practice, Johnson is a strong server while Tyminski has jumped up from JV and has shown to be an all-around player.

Turners Falls

COACH: Kelly Liimatainen

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Northern/5

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 18-3, lost in Div. 5 quarterfinals

ROSTER: Taylor Greene, Jill Reynolds, Ian Bastarche, Madi Liimatainen, Marilyn Abarua, Tatianna Carr-Williams, Kiera Richardson-Meattey, Janelle Massey, Mario Pareja, Maddie Dietz, Sydney Rivera

OUTLOOK: The Thunder have been near perfect in league play the last two years while knocking on the door of bringing a trophy back to Turners. The Thunder went unbeaten in league play, made it to the Class D semis and the Div. 5 state quarters in 2021. In 2022 they split with Wahconah to share the league title before reaching the Class D finals and the Div. 5 quarterfinals. The Warriors are no longer in the North and Turners will again be favored to win the league and make another run in the postseason. Madi Liimatainen is a force on the outside while Greene returns as the Thunder setter.