Girls Volleyball: Mattituck qualifies for state semifinals for first time

GARRET MEADE PHOTO Claire Finnican, who provided Mattituck with 10 kills, hit this ball past Carle Place's Brooke Topel.

Defense is a Mattituck trademark. It has been that way for years, and for good reason. Coach Frank Massa understands full well the value of good defense and what it can do for a team.
Flash and spectacular plays are nice, but making the simple plays that need to be made are vital. “Routine plays will win you a championship,” Massa said after a match earlier this season.
How prophetic those words have proven to be. Since then, the Tuckers have won the Suffolk County Class C championship as well as their first Long Island and Southeast Region titles. Those last two came at once on Saturday when Mattituck beat the Carle Place Frogs, 25-16, 25-13, 25-27, 25-15, in a regional final at the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University.
For the first time in team history, the Tuckers (12-9) are going to the New York State semifinals. They have earned a place in semifinal pool play, which will be held Saturday in Glens Falls. The finals are scheduled for Sunday at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
“We made history today,” Mattituck setter Dominika Kupiszewska said. “Words actually can’t describe how I feel right now.”
Massa, who has been coaching the Tuckers for 24 years, seemed to have trouble believing what he was seeing when Jessica Boomer’s service ace fell to the court for the match point.
“Everything’s gravy after this,” said Massa, who called it the greatest match he has ever been involved in, as a player or coach.
The Tuckers owe so much of it to their defense and doing the simple things right — for the most part. Shortly after the teams and match officials marched into the Pratt Recreation Center to the playing of Olympic theme music, the Tuckers gave their confidence a boost as they looked in firm control of the first two games.
The third game began in a similar fashion. When the score reached 10-5 in Mattituck’s favor, some of its fans started chanting: “Start the bus! Start the bus!”
Perhaps it was a bit premature. Mattituck blew a pair of 10-point leads in that game and lost by two points, forcing a fourth game.
“As our defense goes, our game goes,” Massa said. “In the games that we won, we were playing good defense, and the game that we lost, we had a big lead evaporate because we couldn’t take care of the ball.”
But Mattituck recovered in the fourth game, with Boomer serving out the final eight points during a 9-0 match-ending run.
Kupiszewska had a big match with 24 service points, four aces and nine assists. Jackie Drake provided Mattituck with 13 assists while Boomer added 16 service points and Claire Finnican registered 10 kills, three dinks and a block.
Once again, Mattituck showed good consistency at the service line, putting 96 of 100 serves in play. Kupiszewska went 32 for 33 serving, and Boomer went 22 for 23.
Two highlights of the match were sensational digs by Mattituck’s Lilly McCullough and Kupiszewska. There’s that defense again, the mainstay of the team. It’s a defense that leads to offense.
“Off of good passes we get good sets, and off of good sets we get kills,” Mattituck outside hitter Stefanie Loverde said. “That’s what we do.”
One of Carle Place’s top players was Nicole Grande, with 13 assists. The two big hitters for the Frogs (17-2) were Joanna Koronios and Jill Flecker with seven kills each.
“We don’t like to brag. We kind of just go and we give everything we have, and I think that helps us through,” Boomer said. “I didn’t think this would ever happen for us because we’re such a small school and I didn’t think we’d ever have the opportunity to go upstate, so it’s such a great feeling.”
Which begs the question: Why this year?
Mattituck had teams in the past that could have been considered just as strong, if not stronger. It illustrates how the playoff field changes from year to year and how the competition changes. For a team advancing far into the postseason, it’s like navigating a minefield, not knowing if your next step will be your last.
“With any team, you know, it takes a lot,” Massa said. “You know, not only do you have to worry about your team, but you have to worry about the makeup of the other teams in the league and the other teams from Nassau County. Sometimes you go up against absolutely hard-core teams. Things have to work out for you, and they worked out for us this year.”
Yes, things have worked out for the Tuckers, who might want to give it up to their defense. Kupiszewska said, “That’s what wins us games.”
And more.
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