NORTHBOROUGH — The Barnstable girls’ squad could not have asked for more motivation than rival Newton North, the only team in two years to take a game away from the Red Raiders.
Barnstable’s 3-1 victory could have not been sweeter, earning the Red Raiders their 15th Division 1 state championship in coach Tom Turco’s 25th season.
When asked if winning the title ever gets old, Turco said, “Never, but you know I was dying to get into the 20s here, I don’t know how many of these I can take.”
After graduating six seniors last year and all of his offense, the spotlight was on the senior duo of Kayla Crook and Regan Bristol, and they came shining through.
“I don’t regret anything, said Crook, who finished her career with 2,023 assists. “I wish everyone could go through [winning a state championship]. Coach has led us through the whole way, he’s only done everything for the benefit of us.”
Bristol, who started with Crook as freshmen, had 14 kills for 635 in her career.
Barnstable finished 21-1.
“I’m so proud of this team,” said Turco, whose squad won, 13-25, 25-16, 25-23, 25-17. “They have this incredible belief they can win and be successful.”
After dropping the first set — Keane Brazda, a Bucknell commit, Hannah Andres, Alana King and Deanna Cortina led the way for Newton North — the Red Raiders needed to regroup.
“I was hoping for five [sets] after we got blown away the first game,’’ said Turco. “I was thinking this was going to be a long night here. The Red Raiders had won 15 straight set games this season.
And after 10 ties, senior Colleen Koen (11 kills) made six decisive plays that paced Barnstable, 25-16, in the second set.
The third set was swarmed with errors, but Barnstable stepped up its game when Newton North took a 19-17 lead. A double block by Koen and Crook and a kill by Bristol helped earn Barnstable a 25-23 set win and a 2-1 lead in games.
Division 2 — At the end of it all, Melrose coach Scott Celli was telling his girls, “It’s like the Olympics,” as they lined up to receive their medals.
Celli’s front row of seniors, Sarah McGowan, Jennifer Cain and Rachel Johnson, had a combined 33 kills and Melrose won the state championship over Longmeadow, 3-1 (25-17, 24-26, 25-19, 25-10).
“This was our one dream and one goal that we had to accomplish because we’ve been to this game. We’ve won the Middlesex League, we’ve won Division 2 North, and this was the one thing we couldn’t do,” said McGowan, who had 10 kills, ending her career with 749.
The victory did not come without a challenge. The Red Raiders’ biggest hurdles were Longmeadow’s Amanda Tyler and Jennifer Hurwitz.
Cain (11 kills) propelled the offense in the fourth set. , including the final touches with a tip for the final score.
The Red Raiders started in the first set with a double block by seniors Brooke Bell and McGowan. McGowan’s pair of hits and Longmeadow errors settled the set, 25-17.
The second set was a turnaround.
Hurwitz displayed the power behind her swing that ranked her sixth in the state and relied on Tyler to control volleys for a 5-0 lead in the second set and an 18-10 lead.
Johnson (12 kills), Cain and McGowan led a comeback as Bell (26 assists and 1,853 career assists) added the finishing touches with an ace to tie, 24-24. Hurwitz closed the set with a tip and a hit through a double block, 26-24.
Division 3 — For Alyssa Stankowski, a Frontier volleyball alum, watching her little sister Cassidy receive a standing ovation for the last serve of her high school career was one she’ll always remember.
Cassidy has been the sensation behind the Frontier volleyball program since seventh grade and her 17 kills and 14 digs lifted the Red Hawks to a three-peat as Division 3 state champions over Lynnfield in straight sets Saturday (25-17, 25-19, 25-20).
“A three-peat is so unpredictable and so rare and its unbelievable it’s happened,” said teary-eyed Cassidy.
The sisters won a state title together. “Now I’m sitting on the sideline watching her. I remember when she was little passing the ball. She beat me. She has three state titles, I have two,” said Alyssa.
Cassidy, who has played with the Red Hawks (23-1) since seventh grade, recently committed to Central Connecticut State, ending her high school career with 1,467 kills, 1000 digs and a 135-6 record, according to Red Hawks coach Sean MacDonald.
To leave the Red Hawks is a bittersweet moment for the senior.
“Signing my national letter of intent was surreal, I’m finally moving on and I’m just speechless. It’s been a big honor and I know people across the state know who I am and that’s just a big deal to me and I’ve worked so hard for this,” said Cassidy.
“It’s kind of the end of an era right. Now she’s a nationally respected player. It’s been an amazing ride to watch it. She’s a gifted natural athlete but she mixes that with thousands of hours of hard work and it’s been a joy to coach her,” said MacDonald.
Cassidy worked with junior Sarah Woodward (12 kills, 12 digs) in the third set as the go-to offensive duo. Leading 24-18 and with Cassidy ready to serve, fans on the Algonquin bleachers stood to applaud Cassidy. Although she did not grab game point, Woodward managed a hit past a double block to end the game, 25-18.
Woodward battled most of the second set and Cassidy Ciesluk tipped for gamepoint and a 25-19 win. Senior Victoria Whitney had 24 assists and senior Alexandra Durant chipped in 13 digs.
Woodward had a stellar performance in the first set, snapping a 5-5 tie on the way to a 17-14 lead. Cassidy picked it up toward the end of the game, netting six points including gamepoint with a hit slipping through a double block for a 25-19 final.