Playing closer to home this season, Frontier volleyball staying positive

  • Frontier’s Reilly Isler serves against Rockland in the first set of the 2019 MIAA Div. 3 state final at Worcester State University. The Red Hawks are happy to be back on the court after missing the fall season. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Intern
Published: 3/8/2021 6:03:07 PM
Modified: 3/8/2021 7:36:36 PM

It seems to be a never-ending, recurring theme, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Frontier Regional School girls volleyball program’s unfathomably long streak of 15 straight Western Massachusetts titles — spanning across three separate decades — won’t have a chance to extend this season. Not because the Red Hawks don’t possess the talent to do so, but instead because the sport has no plans to hold a postseason tournament.

Cue the recurring theme. 

While the Red Hawks are accustomed to hoisting trophies come mid-November, this year will offer several newborn routines and rituals. The defending MIAA Division 3 state champions will instead look to enjoy their last opportunity to take the court with this year's senior class. That, and maintaining a positive mindset while being thankful that they are all able to compete during this pandemic-filled year, according to head coach Sean MacDonald. 

“We really want to accomplish two things this year,” MacDonald began. “We want to give our seniors the best senior year they can have under these circumstances, and we also want to prepare everyone else for the fall of 2021.”

MacDonald said he is thrilled to have the opportunity to participate during the “Fall 2” phase of high school sports. He iterated that this season is a great chance to shake off some of the rust that the long layoff may have caused, while working on certain aspects of the game that he feels his team may need some extra work with. 

Motivation is one concept of practice that can be a point of contention for some programs without a postseason to look forward to this season. For a program like Frontier, not ending the season with lifting a trophy would normally constitute a down year, yet this season there will be no opportunity to do so. Without that championship component hovering over practices and matches, it may make focus a difficulty. To MacDonald’s jubilation and delight however, that is not the case so far through the early portion of preseason.

“I haven’t noticed a real drop off in energy, effort, or attitude in practice thus far,” offered MacDonald. “You can tell just how excited they are to be out there playing, and there is going to be some really good competition in our gym when I split up the squad [for intrasquad scrimmages].”

In years prior, Frontier often traveled all over the state to play some extremely solid teams that would challenge them tremendously during the independent portion of the schedule. This year, Frontier will only have the opportunity to play Franklin County schools, as the area’s programs have been bubbled together, much like other sports during the fall and winter seasons.

MacDonald dismissed the idea that the competition won’t be as challenging, noting that he and his players are happy to play some of the more local teams, with the possibility of playing against friends and rosters they are more familiar with.

“I really have no idea, because I haven’t played some of them in a long time, what teams like Mohawk, Pioneer, Greenfield and Mahar are going to have to offer,” MacDonald said. “We used to be in a league with all these teams, so we’re definitely excited to play them all again. I’m looking forward to competing against some local teams and not having to spend several hours on long bus rides.”

Considering that several teams from other parts of the state participated in volleyball during the traditional fall season, rules and regulations for the sport have been set for a while. MacDonald said his team had some fall practices where they followed each rule closely, to most accurately simulate what a match would look like.

One rule in the fall that had a big impact on how matches unfolded were the “COVID lines” that were placed on the floor. It was a line that was three feet on one side from directly under the net, and three feet on the other. This was to ensure that players from respective teams would remain a total of six feet apart during each rally. With the rules that were released for the “Fall 2” season, that was the only rule that was removed.

Every other regulation — wearing masks, no coin toss to begin the match, no switching benches after each game, and where the substitutes are positioned — that was assembled in the fall of 2020 is still in place, however there are no regulations that should impact the game play directly.

Although Frontier had its eyes set on a 16th consecutive Western Mass. trophy, continuing postseason successes and marks will have to wait until next year. MacDonald said the Hawks are trying their best to not empower the disappointment to correlate to negative attitudes or poor play on the court. They may have new opponents and new rules, but look to see the same dominant and dangerous Frontier unit out on the court once again this “Fall.”

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