Lenox Volleyball hits end of road at Frontier in Western Mass. D-III Semifinal
SOUTH DEERFIELD — The end always comes quickly.
Whether the end of a season, a coaching stint, or a high-school experience period.
The Lenox volleyball team felt that suddenness Wednesday night, when the No. 3 Millionaires fell to No. 2 Frontier 3-0 in the Western Massachusetts Division III semifinals.
The Red Hawks, 14-time defending Western Mass. champions, came out and hit the Millionaires right from the start in the first set, winning 25-5 before pulling out much closer sets, 25-21 and 25-20, to get the sweep. When the ball fell on the court for the final time, it marked the end of Lenox's run through the tournament, the end of coach Bessena Cabe's career at the school, and a final match for seniors Kayanna Black and Kristin Miller.
"I think all of us were so excited to play Frontier, it's something we've never done before," Miller said. "And I think after the first set — we always call that our warmup set — we just wanted to play harder no matter the outcome."
And Lenox did play harder. The first set was a disaster, as Frontier's sharp serving and hitting mixed with some uncharacteristic errors from Lenox to allow the runaway score. The second brought a healthy traveling contingent to its feet.
After going back-and-forth through the first 10 points, Lenox ran off five straight — first with a Mia Giardina kill, then four-straight service points by the sophomore — and went up 10-5, forcing a Frontier timeout.
Over the rest of the set, Frontier tried to push ahead, and Lenox tried to hold on. Black (9 kills) and Frontier's Olivia Deane (13 kills) exchanged spikes throughout, with Black scoring one to put her team up 13-8 before Deane fired back on the next point. When Frontier cut the deficit to two, Black got another kill to make it three. Deane then scored a kill to put Frontier up 15-14, but two points later Black got a kill, then an ace to put Lenox up 17-15. Then, after Frontier tied things up at 20-20, Black recorded a kill to make it 21-20, Lenox's last lead of the night.
"We didn't know what to expect, and I think that first blow came as a surprise," Cabe said. "They adjusted quite well, and we changed our game plan to how we wanted to set up and to be able to return some of our hits. We did just that during the second and third sets."
In the third set, Frontier took serve and got the first four points and that lead proved too steep to climb. Lenox got the deficit down to 16-14 and 18-17, but couldn't find a way to tie the set up again.
Frontier coach Sean MacDonald said he expected Lenox to come back in the second and third sets, and was happy with how his team handled the situation.
"We weren't making very many errors, and in fact Lenox, I felt like, was making some errors that helped that lead be as big as it was," he said. "We talked after the first set, and I said `OK, we just punched Lenox in the nose and they are going to shake it off and come back.' We were expecting a response from Lenox, which we got."
Black added four digs and two aces, Miller had four digs, while Giardina had three kills and four digs, and Carolina Chassi had seven digs. Jalen Sullivan added 10 kills to Deane's 13 for Frontier, and Sullivan and Deane also had 13 digs, as did Reilly Isler. Olivia Rosewarne had 11 assists for Frontier.
In the postgame aftermath, Miller took a moment to acknowledge her coach, when asked what she'd remember about the year.
"Definitely my coach, he's actually moving away this year, so this is really sad for all of us," said the senior. "He's definitely brought this team up from nothing, and we thank him for that."
Cabe was emotional talking about his tenure coming to an end.
"I think the thing that I liked the most was the school and the girls, the passion at the end of every day," he said. "When I'm there, they are the highlight of my day to be honest with you. That's what I'll miss the most."
Lenox ends with a 17-4 record. Frontier advances to play No. 1 Lee in Saturday's championship match at West Springfield High School, slated for 2:30 p.m. The contest will be the fifth straight Western Mass. final featuring the two programs, with Frontier having won the first four.
Geoff Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @GSmith_Eagle on Twitter and 413-496-6254.
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