GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Eastport/South Manor’s Kristen Bohnenblusch tries to hit the ball past an attempted block by Mattituck’s Shannon Dwyer.
SHARKS 25, 25, 25, TUCKERS 10, 9, 9
Of all the skills required of a volleyball player, none is so elemental as passing. It’s not as flashy as a hard-driven kill or as dramatic as a diving dig, but passing is the glue that binds a volleyball team together. Without passing, it doesn’t matter how good a team’s setters or hitters are because they would become little more than window dressing.
“Everything starts with a pass,” said Mattituck outside hitter Alexa Orlando.
With that understanding, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Job. No. 1 for the Tuckers these days is working on their passing game. A challenging series of non-league matches has helped them toward that end.
“We have to work on offense, passing the ball off of the serve,” Mattituck coach Frank Massa said. “Everything starts from there. If you’re not passing at 80 or 85 percent, you’re giving away too many points.”
Looking across the net on Monday, the Tuckers saw a team they may want to emulate in that regard: Eastport/South Manor. The Sharks are good passers, not to mention scrappy defenders. They registered 15 service aces while coasting past Mattituck, 25-10, 25-9, 25-9, in a non-league match in Manorville.
“We just play with a lot of heart, and you can’t really just teach players that,” Eastport/South Manor’s freshman setter, Daniela Detore, said. “You just kind of come onto the court with it.”
Detore produced 14 assists. She also went 14 for 15 at the service line, with four service aces.
Eastport/South Manor (6-0, 3-0 Suffolk County League V) also received six kills, three aces and a dink from Morgan Johnson. Gabrielle Calise put all 10 of her serves in play for the Sharks.
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Laurel Bertolas of Mattituck taking a swing at the ball.
It’s possible that Mattituck (1-6, 1-3 League VII) had not seen a team as talented as Eastport/South Manor since last November when the Tuckers played in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class C semifinal pool for the second year in a row. Eastport/South Manor has a proud history in the sport, winning league championships from 2004 to 2010. Last year the Sharks reached the Suffolk Class A semifinals before losing to Sayville in four games.
Eastport/South Manor hosted a 20-team tournament on Saturday and handled itself quite well. The Sharks lost to Massapequa in the quarterfinals, 26-24, 25-22. Just to be clear, that is 12-time defending Nassau County Class AA champion Massapequa.
“They’re hungry,” Eastport/South Manor coach Don Consorte said of his players. “We want to go out and we want to see what we can do. We want to prove to other teams that we’re a good team.”
Eastport/South Manor’s gym, also known as the “Shark Tank,” can be an intimidating place for visiting teams. But a tough non-league schedule is just what Massa looks for to sharpen his team’s skills. “It was a good learning opportunity for us,” he said of Monday’s match. “You try to get the competition up real high, and hopefully the girls learn from that.”
The Tuckers did have their hands full. Shannon Dwyer (three aces, two kills, one block) was the only Mattituck player with more than one kill. As a team, Mattituck managed only six kills. With the exception of 2-1 and 3-2 leads in the first game, Mattituck never led.
The biggest lesson Mattituck has learned so far this season is what it needs to work on. “Passing right now is the most challenging part for us,” said Massa.
Orlando seemed to agree. She said, “We have really good hitters and really good middles and everything, but we just have to work on passing off a serve and serving, I think, and then we’ll be a lot better.”
Eastport/South Manor’s defense looked sharp. The Sharks got to just about every ball Mattituck hit in play.
“Our defense is amazing, but we have key hitters that if you get the ball to them, they will definitely put it away for us,” Detore said, referring to Cassandra Minogue, Brittany Boccio, Brittany Little and Johnson. “I think we can go a long way.”
Consorte said it is one of the harder-working teams he has coached. “We work hard on defense pretty much every day in practice, so they know what system is in place here and what their job is and what’s expected of them,” he said, “so yes, they are hard-nosed and they will go after every ball.”