Div. 3 State Volleyball Final: Frontier vying for 10th MIAA title

  • Frontier head coach Sean MacDonald celebrates with his team after their MIAA Div. 3 semifinal win against AMSA on Wednesday night. The Red Hawks play Rockland today at noon in the state final. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier players celebrate their MIAA Div. 3 semifinal win against AMSA on Wednesday night. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier’s Abbe Roberts serves against AMSA in the third set Wednesday night during the MIAA Div. 3 semifinal. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier head coach Sean MacDonald celebrates with his team after their MIAA Div. 3 semifinal win against AMSA on Wednesday night. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 11/15/2019 10:09:51 PM
Modified: 11/15/2019 10:09:36 PM

It’s usually a given that Frontier Regional School will be in the conversation for best Division 3 girls volleyball team in the state at the end of each season.

Having won every Western Mass. title over the past 15 years, the Red Hawks have been a mainstay in the state tournament. Getting there in 2019, however, didn’t feel as certain as it may have in years past.

With expectations comes pressure, and after graduating five seniors who started last season, Frontier came into this season with the goal of just winning Western Mass. That meant not looking past a sectional title and into the state tournament.

After accomplishing that, anything else was gravy. Following a 3-0 thumping of Advanced Math and Science Academy Charter School (AMSA) in the state semifinals, though, the Red Hawks now have their sights set firmly on a state title. They’ll square off with South champion Rockland High School (24-1) in the Div. 3 state finals on Saturday at noon at Worcester State University. 

Frontier (16-8) is 9-2 all time in state finals. A win would give the program its 10th state championship and first since 2017, something coach Sean MacDonald said he couldn’t have imagined happening at the start of the year.

“I would think a lot of stuff had to go right,” he said of the preseason expectations. “Things would have to go as well as they would possibly have to go. Everybody would have to be healthy, we would have to make significant progress throughout the season. We’ve done all those things. I’d say we’ve made noticeable progress since Halloween. We’re still improving and looking to continue to improve.”

>kern 0.18pt<The semifinal match against AMSA was never a contest. The Eagles looked like a team that’d never been to a state tournament while the Red Hawks looked like a team that’d been there 15 years in a row. Frontier didn’t allow AMSA to take a set in a 3-0 drubbing on Wednesday, never allowing the Eagles to get to 20 points in a set. They laid the hammer down late, holding AMSA to just nine points in the final set.>kern 0pt<

“We were expecting it to be closer in score and a longer match,” MacDonald said. “What we knew of them, they looked good. I felt like we stuck to the game plan and executed as good as anybody ever has in my career. It was a really nice night.” 

The Red Hawks will need another strong effort Saturday if they want to raise a 10th state championship banner.

Like Frontier, Rockland played a tough regular-season schedule in preparation for the postseason. The Bulldogs have been nothing short of dominant of late, surrendering just one set the entire postseason.

The Bulldogs showed their talent in their first-ever appearance at the state level, smashing Ipswich in three sets, 25-17, 25-18, 25-4, during the semifinal round earlier this week.

Led by three senior All-State selections, Rockland will certainly be one of the more talented teams the Red Hawks have faced all season.

Hannah Wyllie is the Bulldogs’ main weapon. A 6-foot-2 middle hitter who can hit and block, Wyllie has been a force all season long and will be a player Frontier must key on. 

Caroline Elie is another All-State player on the outside and Jessica DeMarco is an All-State setter who does a great job of feeding Wyllie and Elie for easy kills.

“We’re still trying to crack their code,” MacDonald said. “We’re going to have some resistance at the net and going to have to slow down how Wyllie can attack us and limit her opportunities.”

Raising that 10th state banner won’t come easy, as Frontier will have to play another near-perfect match to return home to South Deerfield victorious.

Just as they’ve proved all season long though, it’s a dangerous game to count out an underdog Red Hawk squad.

“We’re playing good right now,” MacDonald said. “We feel good about where we are and how we’ve responded after losing some important people. We’re looking forward to going in and playing hard and competing.

“If we play like we did Wednesday and play smart, I’m giving us a chance,” he continued. “I think we’ll be in it if we do that.”

The Frontier-Rockland match is the first of a tripleheader at Worcester State on Saturday. The Division 2 state final between Danvers and Canton follows at 3 p.m., with the Div. 1 final between Winchester and Needham capping things at 6 p.m.

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