GARRET MEADE PHOTO | One of Mattituck’s captains, Laurel Bertolas, holding up the third Long Island championship plaque the Tuckers have won in four years.
LONG ISLAND REGION CLASS C FINAL | TUCKERS 25, 13, 17, 25, 25, FROGS 14, 25, 25, 21, 22
Given the circumstances and given how much was at stake, a strong case could be made that the Mattituck High School girls volleyball team never experienced the sort of pressure that it did on Sunday.
For the Tuckers, the difference between triumph and failure was so slight that they shuddered at the thought of how close they had come to what would have been the end of their season. Instead, they rejoiced at the exciting prospect of a trip to Glens Falls.
For the third time in four years, the Tuckers clinched a place in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships. Just how they did it, though, was particularly gripping.
After falling behind, two games to one, Mattituck recovered to pull out a thrilling, if not particularly well-played, Long Island Region Class C final against Carle Place.
What the match may have lacked at times in consistent play was more than made up for by drama. Mattituck, playing with its back to the wall after falling into a hole, emerged a 25-14, 13-25, 17-25, 25-21, 25-22 winner for its third Long Island championship.
Mishits and passing errors were prominent down the stretch by both sides before a kill by Shannon Dwyer made the score in the decisive fifth game 24-22. Then, when Carle Place was unable to handle a ball on match point, the happy Tuckers mobbed each other on the court at St. Joseph’s College’s John A. Danzi Athletic Center. On the other side of the net, the Frogs looked crushed.
Later, one of the beaming Mattituck captains, Laurel Bertolas, was presented with the championship plaque, which she raised high over her head and those of her teammates for all to see.
With the triumph, Mattituck (10-7) earned the right to compete in the state tournament that will be held Nov. 16 and 17 at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
Mattituck’s advancement was by no means assured. The Tuckers had also defeated Carle Place in a Long Island final in 2010 to reach their first state tournament. That match was completed in four games, and was not nearly as intense as the one on Sunday.
Things started off well for Mattituck. The Tuckers’ first server, Emilie Reimer, took 15 of the team’s 24 serves in that opening game. Although Carle Place (16-3) cut Mattituck’s lead to 13-12 at one point, the Tuckers never trailed and pulled away.
But the Tuckers seemed to lose something after that opening game. Reimer served only twice in the second game, and that wasn’t a good sign for Mattituck. And then Carle Place took the third game, putting Mattituck on the brink of elimination.
A service ace by Dwyer closed out the fourth game, setting up a dramatic showdown in Game 5.
How close was it?
On paper, Carle Place actually held advantages in just about all the major statistical categories: aces (14-10), assists (34-27), kills (36-24). The Frogs even outscored the Tuckers in total points, 107-105.
But the Tuckers had the on-court leadership of Dwyer to rally around. The senior middle hitter put down 15 kills and had 6 blocks. Many of her kills came off sets by Bertolas (20 assists). Meanwhile, Reimer was steady at the service line, going 29 for 30.
The Tuckers had to contend with the fierce swing of Carle Place outside hitter Courtney Mulcare. Mulcare, a senior, put away 17 kills. Carle Place also received 22 assists from Patricia Acipreste and another 11 from Brianna DeMeo. DeMeo was a 22-for-23 server.