At the start of the high school girls volleyball season, it’s the dream of every team in New York State to play their final game of the year at the Glens Falls Civic Center, the site of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships.
Lately, Mattituck has made a habit of making the long drive to Glens Falls to play in the state tournament, something the Tuckers did last year for the fourth time in five years. The Tuckers’ coach, Frank Massa, calls it “the greatest trip in high school.” He said, “The overall experience for all the girls is that for 99.9 percent of them, this is the biggest athletic stage that they will ever play on.”
The next ground-breaking achievement for the Tuckers (10-9 last year) would be winning a game in the state championships. They have an all-time record of 0-24 in the big tournament. Massa has said that it’s a lot easier to get to Glens Falls than to win a game there.
Last year the Tuckers had to buck the odds to get there. They petitioned their way into the playoffs, and as the No. 3 seed in the Suffolk County Class C Tournament they got hot at the right time. Although they lost all six of their semifinal pool games in the state tournament, they held late leads in both of their games against Spackenkill, only to lose them both by 25-19 scores.
All this talk about Glens Falls is nice, but Massa understands that first things come first. First the Tuckers have to make it to the playoffs.
They will dearly miss the services of hard-hitting middle hitter Emilie Reimer, who is now playing for SUNY/Cobleskill. If it were not for Reimer, the Tuckers very well may not have seen the playoffs. She sparkled in the postseason, putting up 86 kills, 11 blocks, 7 dinks, 6 assists and 2 aces from 50-for-50 serving.
“Last year we had that player where you go, ‘Wow!’ ” said Massa.
The Tuckers don’t have that “wow” factor this year, but they do have what Massa believes to be a more balanced talent level. They still have two of their starters from last year in Carly Doorhy, an all-conference senior setter, and Meghan McKillop, a senior libero.
Seven other seniors who experienced last year’s exciting ride are back: defensive specialist Phurlamu Sherpa, defensive specialist Allie Becker, right-side hitter Skyler Grathwohl, middle hitter Dawn Rochon, middle hitter Caroline Keil, defensive specialist Maria Capichana and setter Erin Feeney.
Joining the team are outside hitter Madison Osler, middle hitter Sam Husak, right-side hitter Grace Izzo, setter Kim Corso, defensive specialist Amanda Young, setter Sarah Shannon and outside hitter Kathryn Zaloom.
Massa, who is in his 28th year as Mattituck’s coach, said he enjoys coaching as much as ever.
“Practices are fun for me,” he said. “They go by quicker. I just want to see [the players] succeed. I know how much fun it is for them to win. A great group of girls and that’s the one constant I would say with every group I coached.”
On their way to Glens Falls, the Tuckers ousted Greenport/Southold (9-7) in the Suffolk County Class C semifinals. The Clippers lost their standout middle hitter, Jenna Standish, to graduation, but return a small but versatile group, led by two all-league seniors, Marina DeLuca and Mercedes Edwards. DeLuca is an outside hitter and Edwards has been moved from setter to middle hitter.
Rosa Hernandez can play outside hitter or on the right side. Monique Smith can play as an outside hitter or as a defensive specialist. Gina Anasagasti can play outside hitter or on the right side.
“I’ve got kids that can play right side, outside and middle,” said coach Mike Gunther.
Versatility is a nice thing.
Sydney Mulvaney, a senior who did not play last year, will play setter.
“I would say we can do better than we did last year,” said Gunther.
Why does he say that?
“If you look at it on paper, we’re stronger at [just] about every position,” he said. “There’s more all-around skill on the court. Is anyone standing out like Jenna did last year? Not yet, but the middle and the bottom have moved up.”