For the second year in a row, Mattituck went winless in the state Class C girls volleyball semifinal pool. Six games played, six games lost. But that doesn’t mean that the Tuckers didn’t make an impact on the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships on Saturday.
Voorheesville defeated Mattituck last year in the Tuckers’ first two semifinal games. If the Tuckers thought things would be easier this time, they would have been mistaken. If the Tuckers thought they might gain their first win ever in a state semifinal, they would have been wrong.
But they came awfully close.
Mattituck’s final game of the evening — and the season — at the Glens Falls Civic Center was easily its best. The Tuckers, who never held a lead in their previous five games, shot out to a 3-0 start, perhaps catching defending state champion Voorheesville by surprise. They led by as many as six points when a Claire Finnican kill made it 8-2.
Voorheesville tied it at 8-8, but Mattituck immediately went in front again, and looked in good shape with a 22-16 lead.
The Blackbirds must have been sweating this one out. They needed to win in order to tie Rhinebeck for second place and a chance to reach the finals.
But the Tuckers had motivation of their own: making the final game in the careers of their five seniors a memorable one.
“When we went into the sixth game, we had our spirits up,” one of those seniors, libero Jackie Hinrichs, said. “We wanted to win so badly.”
While the prospect of an historic win teased the Tuckers, Voorheesville surged ahead, finishing the game on a 10-2 run that was aided by kills from Sarah Dykstra, Tori Hargrave and Caroline Bablin, some Mattituck miscues and a game-ending block by Bablin. The final score was 26-24.
That forced a tiebreaker game between Rhinebeck and Voorheesville, which both had 3-3 records, for the right to face Eden in the state final on Sunday. (Eden won all six of its semifinal games). Rhinebeck won the tiebreaker, 25-13.
Smiles and tears were seen on Mattituck faces after the team’s final game.
“Even though I’m crying my eyes out, it’s O.K. because we proved ourselves to be a good team,” said Finnican, a senior middle hitter.
Hinrichs, who had bruises on her arms to attest to the hitting ability of the teams Mattituck played, said the Tuckers worked hard to reach the state semifinals. “We lost a lot of players from last year and we kept hearing: ‘You’re not going to make it to Glens Falls. You lost 10 seniors,’ ” she said. “So that put a lot in our heads, but making it up here meant so much to everyone. This is an experience that I’ll never forget.”
Elizabeth Bjork provided fuel for the Voorheesville offense against Mattituck in the form of 13 assists and four service aces.
The first game between Mattituck and Voorheesville couldn’t have been much more different than the second. It was all Voorheesville. The Blackbirds scored the first seven points of the game and didn’t need to go through their rotation once in order to post a 25-9 snoozer.
Mattituck, which went 12-10 during its journey to Glens Falls, had its work cut out for it in the form of three formidable opponents in the state semifinal pool. Eden, a winner of 13 straight sectional titles, has won four state titles in the past five years and is seeking a threepeat. Heading into Glens Falls, Eden was 34-5-6. Rhinebeck, the Section IX champion, was 20-0. Voorheesville was 21-0.
Watching one Eden player after another slam balls down onto the court during warmups can be intimidating enough.
“They are so scary,” said Finnican.
Mattituck coach Frank Massa called the competition “insanely good,” likening it to playing Elwood/John Glenn three times in a row.
In its first two games, 25-12 and 25-13 Eden wins, Mattituck faced a virtual hitting machine in the Raiders, and the best hitter of the bunch was senior Kendall Pierce. The Penn State-bound outside hitter connected for 13 kills against Mattituck while teammate Rebecca Shoemaker had 19 assists.
Both teams are in Class C, but Eden was clearly a class above Mattituck. The Raiders set the tone by opening the first game with a 12-1 lead before Mattituck even took its second serve.
The difference in quality was reflected in the team statistics from those first two games: Service aces, 10-3 in favor of Eden. Assists, 24-4 Eden. Kills, 22-4 Eden.
Rhinebeck brought more of the same — a lot of hitting, 19 kills worth in two games, to be exact. The Hawks, with 18 assists from Alexandria Hammond and nine kills from Rebecca Borquist, romped, 25-16, 25-11. Serena Ferrari went 11 for 11 from the service line.
The loss in the second game against Rhinebeck eliminated Mattituck from contention for the finals.
It was an impressive run, though, for Mattituck, returning to Glens Falls after losing 10 players to graduation.
“I would say we proved a lot of people wrong,” Finnican said. “We proved that we can go a lot farther than we even thought ourselves.”
The Tuckers weren’t playing for a place in the final by the time they faced Voorheesville. They were playing for memories, and they were able to leave Glens Falls with fond ones, if not a win.
“We got here. That’s all that matters,” Kelly Cassidy, a senior outside hitter, said. “It would have felt nice to win because last year we didn’t win any, either, but we left our hearts on the court.”