Six high school volleyball players who have what it takes to get the job done
BY MATT OSGOOD
Wednesday, December 10, 2003
Senior Heather Cairl at the beginning of the season was reluctant to change positions from outside hitter to libero for
Frontier Regional. But that switch ultimately propelled the Red Hawks to a 16-4 record, a trip to the Western
Massachusetts semifinals, and a spot for Cairl on the Daily Hampshire Gazette All-Star team.She didn't want to play that
position, said Frontier Regional volleyball coach Sean MacDonald referring to libero, a defensive specialist doing the
most work for the least recognition. ''But she wanted to play where she could benefit the team the most, and she did just
''Heather was the person that was doing all the hard work to make everyone else look good. She would do a lot of nice
passing to run our offense. The offense started through her.''
The diminutive senior led the Red Hawks in digs, and could be recognized easily on the court wearing the libero's
different-colored jersey, frequently sliding on her body to get the Frontier hitters a chance for a kill.
Cairl is joined on the All-Star team by Red Hawks' teammate and classmate, Cassandra Bielicki. Both are making their
second straight appearance as Gazette All-Stars.
Bielicki established herself as valuable simply by using her left hand as the dominant one in hitting the ball. That factor
led opposing teams to adjust to defending a different side of the net, thus creating a mismatch.
''Cassandra was valuable to us because she is left-handed,'' MacDonald said. ''She gave teams something real
different to look at. When we got into a jam, she was our go-to person up front.''
Linda Warrington, is making her final appearance as a Gazette Volleyball All-Star. The 6-foot senior led the
Belchertown to a 10-6 record and the quarterfinals of the Western Massachusetts tournament, after leading the Orioles
to the regional title as a junior.
Not bad for someone who just took up volleyball as a freshman.
''Linda could be a Division I player,'' said coach Shawn Campbell. ''She could play semi-pro at a high level. She's
definitely taken to volleyball.''
Hitting and defense remained a strong point this season, as Warrington killed 34 percent of the shots she hit and had a
team-high in blocks with 50 from her middle hitter position. Both of those numbers are remarkably high.
''I would love to compare her stats with anyone else in the area,'' Campbell said of his captain.
Stephanie Weibel, another Oriole, improved immensely between her sophomore and junior year, earning her a spot as
''When looking at Stephanie, there is a huge difference between years,'' said Campbell. ''Just look at the stats.''
Weibel registered an ace on 13 percent of her serves, while 10 percent of her shots went for kills. She was second to
Warrington this season in blocks with 36.
''I'm not big on memories, but I'll remember how hard and how well these two worked, and remember what they
accomplished,'' Campbell said.
Closing out the list of All-Stars is junior Tara McNerney and senior Francie Jones, both of Amherst Regional.
They led Amherst to a 10-10 record and a berth in the Western Massachusetts tournament.
''Tara is really agile, and really athletic,'' said Hurricane coach Kacey Schmitt of her middle hitter. ''She's not one
dimensional, and that impressed me. She's made herself a total player.
''Francie is a really smart player. She made it look easy. She is not the quickest player, but she is always where she is
supposed to be.''
HEATHER CAIRL (Frontier Regional): Two time Gazette All-Star ... switched positions from outside hitter to libero at
beginning of season ... led team in digs ... plans to play Division III college volleyball ... led team to No. 3 ranking in
Western Massachusetts tournament.
CASSANDRA BIELICKI (Frontier Regional): Two-time Gazette All-Star ... led Red Hawks in kills ... had 15 kills in
semifinal tournament loss to Pioneer Valley ... will try out for volleyball at Bentley College or Bryant College.
LINDA WARRINGTON (Belchertown): Led team with 50 blocks ... recorded eight digs, eight kills, eight blocks in
quarterfinal tournament loss to Mohawk Trail ... led Orioles to Western Massachusetts crown as a junior ... will play
Division I basketball at St. Francis in N.Y.
STEPHANIE WEIBEL (Belchertown): Improved performance points from 217 to 276 this year ... 13 percent of serves
went for aces ... blocked 36 shots.
TARA MCNERNEY (Amherst Regional): 102 kills top on team despite missing three games with illness ... junior recorded
54 blocks ... best match against West Springfield to clinch tourney berth.
FRANCIE JONES (Amherst Regional): Team-high 68 digs and 51 aces ... missed just three serves all season ... grew up
playing volleyball in California ... career-high 14 kills, seven aces, three digs against Longmeadow on Oct. 15.
Chelsea Bryant, senior, Amherst Regional
Nikki Wiseman, sophomore, Frontier Regional
Angela Cicia, senior, Frontier Regional
Samantha Mann, junior, Belchertown
Five-set match goes to Pioneer
BY BRANDON THOMAS
Thursday, November 6, 2003
If their identical league records or regular-season split wasn't enough evidence that the Frontier Regional and Pioneer
Regional volleyball teams were evenly matched, their post-season epic on Wednesday would make believers out of
anyone.Neither team lost by more than three points in the first four games of the Western Massachusetts Division 3
Tournament semifinal at Frontier. But in the end it was No. 3 Pioneer knocking off No. 2 Frontier, 3-2 (27-30, 30-28,
29-31, 33-31, 15-7), in a match that lasted 2 hours and 15 minutes. Sophomore setter Nikki Wiseman had 29 assists
and seven aces and Cassandra Bielicki had 15 kills for Frontier. It was a disappointing end to a great season for the
Red Hawks (16-4), but they knew the match was up for grabs. ''I think that it was a battle of nerves,'' Pioneer coach
Sharon Schena said. ''Both groups were so nervous that it was whoever could not make the mistake that would win.''
Both teams showed those jitters early, combining for 11 service errors in the first game. Frontier had a commanding
21-10 lead, but Pioneer came back to tie the score at 27. The Hawks eventually took the game by three points. The
tone for the night was set - no lead would be safe and momentum would be key. ''We won the first game, and then I
think we started to kind of let down and we didn't come at them full blast,'' Bielicki said. The Hawks had a similar lead
again in the second game, this time 26-18, but Pioneer responded with nine consecutive points. A couple of Liz Knapp
kills gave Frontier a 28-27 lead, but the Panthers finished off the comeback with their sixth ace of the game. ''We talked
about calling the ball a little better, and just playing our game - just pass the ball and hit the ball is basically what we
needed to do.'' Schena said. Another key to Pioneer's game plan was keeping its serves in play. ''They served well and
made us make the mistakes,'' Frontier coach Sean MacDonald said. In the third game, it was Frontier coming from
behind to win. Down 26-21, the Hawks rallied for seven consecutive points and eventually won the game on Knapp's
ace. Pioneer appeared to have the fourth game wrapped up twice before finally knotting the match at 2, setting up a
first-to-15 fifth game. ''When it goes to five games, the ball goes over the net a bunch of times before anyone scores,''
MacDonald said. ''You could see that both teams were nervous and I told the girls, 'Don't be nervous', because I had
confidence in the team.'' The Panthers dominated the final game, jumping out to a 5-1 lead. Frontier appeared to cut
the lead to three when setter Wiseman tipped the ball past a block, but the officials ruled that she hit the net. Instead of
being down 10-7 with the serve, the Hawks trailed 11-6. ''Nikki was upset about it, but there's not much you can do.''
MacDonald said. Frontier cut the lead to 12-7 on great defensive efforts by Abby Majewski (seven kills, five aces),
Heather Cairl (11 digs), and Sarah Goodridge (four kills), but it was as close as the Hawks would come. The Panthers
will go on to face No. 1 Turners Falls in the Western Massachusetts finals on Saturday. ''When you give it everything
you've got and the other team beats you, that's just the way it goes,'' MacDonald said. ''I'm really happy our team made
it this far,'' said Bielicki, one of Frontier's five seniors. ''Our team's really clicked this year with Nikki (Wiseman) as the
new setter ... Everyone improved so much this year.''
Filed Under: high school sports south deerfield sports
Red Hawks cruise into semifinals
By MATT OSGOOD
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Tuesday, November 4, 2003
As the Frontier Regional volleyball team came to a huddle before its Western Massachusetts Division 3 Tournament
quarterfinal Monday against Pioneer Valley Christian School, the Red Hawks slapped palms and vaulted back onto their
hands for synchronized cartwheels, igniting roars from the crowd. The ease of the move seemed to mirror that of the
contest ahead.The second-seeded Red Hawks cruised past the Eagles in three short sets, the first of which lasted just
18 minutes. No. 7 Pioneer Valley Christian got stronger along the way, but still was overmatched in the 3-0 (30-13,
30-17, 30-22) Frontier win.
Senior outside hitter Angela Cicia dominated on her serves, accounting for 18 service points, four of them aces. She
also smashed five balls for kills, eliciting audible gasps from fans at Goodnow Gymnasium.
''Angela is just one of our outside hitters,'' said coach Sean MacDonald, whose team moves on to the semifinals at
home against No. 3 Pioneer Valley Regional (15-3) at 7 p.m. Wednesday. ''When we get into trouble, she's one of the
people we go to.''
For a brief stretch in the third set, the Eagles (11-10) did give the Red Hawks (16-3) trouble. Led by junior Emily
Leonczyk, Pioneer Valley Christian scored seven straight service points and were ahead 10-4 before Cicia pounded a
kill to a vacant spot in the heart of the Eagle defense.
Inconsistent at times, the Red Hawks had their share of miscues including several missed serves and communication
breakdowns resulting in Eagle points.
''It was up and down a little bit,'' MacDonald said. ''Some of that is just a mental lapse. We have to focus on what we're
doing rather than how the other team is doing.''
Sparking Frontier down the stretch was fiery senior libero Heather Cairl. Her poise enabled the Red Hawks to quiet the
rowdy Eagle faithful during their seven-point run.
''We definitely played down to their level for a while, but we called time-out and picked it up,'' said Cairl. ''We just came
back and gave it our all. We just needed to communicate, and know where we are on the court at all times. We just
needed to swing hard.''
''She's the one who does all the hard work to make other people look good,'' added MacDonald.
Sophomores Abigail Majewski and Nikki Wiseman helped pace the Red Hawks in the first and second sets. Majewski
had 10 kills in the game, and Wiseman, a transfer from Bellingham, scored 13 service points.
''We wouldn't be where we are if it wasn't for (Nikki), and Abbie is playing great ... when she knows when to swing, good
things usually happen,'' MacDonald said.