TUCKERS 25, 25, 25, RED DEVILS 21, 12, 20
What has become something of a Mattituck girls volleyball tradition this time of year may be in jeopardy.
Mattituck has qualified for the playoffs every year since switching from the spring to the fall season. That makes eight years in a row. Whether the Tuckers will see their way through to a ninth straight playoff berth this fall remains to be seen.
Mattituck needs to win two of its three remaining regular-season matches in order to make it to the postseason. The Tuckers, who have played in county finals in seven of the past eight years, reached the New York State Class C semifinal pool the last two years.
Of course, that is past history. What concerns the Tuckers mostly now is the present and their immediate future. That immediate future includes three Suffolk County League VII matches — all on the road — against Hampton Bays on Wednesday, against Shoreham-Wading River on Oct. 22 and against Southampton on Oct. 29. Mattituck lost to Hampton Bays during the first half of the season, but beat both Shoreham-Wading River and Southampton earlier in the season.
“I think as a team we’re pretty focused right now,” Mattituck middle hitter Shannon Dwyer said. “It’s not going to be fooling around in practice tomorrow, I can say that. It’s kind of exciting, though. That’s what you got to do and there’s not really any other way around it to get [to the playoffs]. I think it’s going to happen.”
If nothing else, it makes for good drama, something Mattituck coach Frank Massa could do without. Speaking of his team’s eight-year playoff run, Massa said: “We want to keep that streak going. We have to make two out of three. We’ll see how it goes.”
What are the team’s chances?
“It’s a possibility,” Massa said. “We got to suit up and play. It’s always doable.”
The Tuckers gave their chances a boost on Monday night when Dwyer put away eight kills and Courtney Ficner went 19 of 20 serving with five aces in a 25-21, 25-12, 25-20 win in Center Moriches. The result snapped a three-match losing skid for Mattituck (4-10, 4-5).
In the first game on Monday night, Mattituck made things a little more interesting, perhaps, than Massa would have liked against winless Center Moriches (0-9, 0-9). The teams traded leads four times, the last time when an ace by Emily Reimer made the score 18-17 in Mattituck’s favor.
“We all knew this game was important to us,” Ficner said. “We were kind of a little nervous, but then we shook everything off and we got through it.”
Mattituck fell behind, 8-5, in the second game before using a 9-0 spurt that included three aces by Ficner to take charge. The Tuckers never trailed in the third game, jumping out to a 15-6 lead.
Mattituck served well, putting 69 of 73 serves (95 percent) in play, 14 for aces. Laurel Bertolas finished with 12 assists for the Tuckers.
Center Moriches received nine kills from Dora Mayen.
“It was just another rough day,” said Center Moriches coach Bryan Ramirez, who must have scratched his head more than once this season while trying to figure out his team’s travails.
“It’s a puzzler, that’s for sure,” he said. “Game to game, it’s just been little stuff that’s not pulling together, little mistakes here and there. I look at the team, the players that I have, we should be 6 and 2, not 0 and .”
Part of the puzzle has been Center Moriches’ ever-changing lineup.
“We’ve had lineup changes all over the place,” Ramirez said. “Sometimes it works better, sometimes it doesn’t.”
Mattituck is hoping things work out down the stretch so it will have a postseason to defend its Long Island championship.
“It’s really important because you don’t want to break tradition,” Ficner said. “It’s a little scary because if you’re having an off day, you can’t, you don’t have another day to help you. I think we can do it.”