GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO
Middle hitter Claire Finnican is among eight Mattituck players who saw a good deal of playing time last season.
With eight players who saw plenty of playing time last season and another three returners, the Mattituck High School girls volleyball team is loaded with experience. What does that mean?
“It doesn’t mean anything,” Tuckers Coach Frank Massa said. “It means a lot of girls played a lot last year.”
In other words, Massa isn’t taking anything for granted as he enters the new season. “Nothing’s going to be handed out to us,” he said. “Nobody is going to give us any kind of accolades or awards. We’re going to have to earn it. We’re 0 and 0 just like the rest of the teams.”
The Tuckers (9-12 last year) hope to extend a fine run that has seen them reach county finals in five of the past six years. Last year they lost to Hampton Bays in four games in the Suffolk County Class C final.
Mattituck has two proven senior outside hitters in Lilly McCullough, an all-league selection, and Kim Krupski, who made the all-county tournament team. Setters Jackie Drake and Dominika Kupiszewska, middle hitters Claire Finnican and Stefanie Loverde, and defensive specialists Jessica Boomer and Rebecca Mincieli also saw time in the starting lineup.
Depth is provided by outside hitter Kim Mulrain, defensive specialist Taylor Leden and middle hitter Madeline Burlingame, who were all on the team last year.
The only new additions are back-row player Jackie Henricks and defensive specialist Gia Vaccaro.
“I would like to think that these girls have the potential to make a good run,” said Massa, who is in his 24th year coaching the Tuckers. “They want to continue the good string that we’ve had, making the playoffs and going deep. The good thing is a lot of these girls have two years of county champion games under their belt.”
Defense continues to be a focal point for the Southold/Greenport Clippers (2-13), and for good reason. “We’ve always had very good defense,” Coach Katy Smith said. “We always worked on our defense a lot because if you don’t have a defense, you don’t have an offense.”
Smith expects to have both this season, her third in charge of the program. Megan Demarest, an all-league sophomore who can play either setter or libero, leads a cast of five returning starters. The others are senior left-side hitter Emily Demarest, sophomore left-side hitter Shelby Kostal, senior middle hitter Abby Abrams and senior right-side hitter Kristen Tylee.
Also back from last year’s team are middle hitters Nina Popamichael, Kim Bracken and Lorena Perez, and setter Megan Van Gordon.
One of the team’s newcomers is Corinne Rose, a sophomore whose position was unsettled.
Smith said she believes inexperience had a lot to do with the team’s struggles last season. “Not one of the girls last year played at the varsity level” before, she said.
That has changed.
“They understand the pressure and the quick level of play at the varsity level,” Smith said. “They look great. I think that we’re going to have a good season. I think they are going to have a lot of good matches this year. They have stepped up their game.”