Girls Volleyball: Tuckers serve up second county title in three years
Some members of the Mattituck High School girls volleyball team acknowledged that they had a tough time focusing in school on Tuesday. That was understandable, given the importance of the match that they had ahead of them that night.
Ironically, it was the Tuckers’ focus at the serving line that was instrumental in them securing their second Suffolk County title in three years. A 25-12, 25-19, 25-8 triumph over the Pierson/Bridgehampton Whalers in the Class C final at St. Joseph’s College did the trick. After Claire Finnican slammed a set from Dominika Kupiszewska off a blocker for the final point, the top-seeded Tuckers rushed toward each other on the court at the John A. Danzi Athletic Center, hugged and celebrated. They were once again on top of the county.
Mattituck will play East Rockaway or Oyster Bay in the Long Island final on Saturday at the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University in Brookville.
“It’s amazing,” said senior libero Gia Vaccaro, a transfer from Long Beach in her first season with the Tuckers (11-9). “I can’t even describe the feeling.”
The victory took Kupiszewska’s breath away from her. Asked if the experience was as thrilling as she thought it might, she replied: “It’s better. It’s a lot better. I can’t even speak I’m so excited.”
For much of the night the Tuckers let their serving do their talking for them. In a sense, it was a match of serves, most of them going Mattituck’s way. The Tuckers committed only three service errors from 73 attempts.
Mattituck gained 12 points while Vaccaro served. That included a stretch in the first game when she registered four service aces during an 8-0 run that put the Tuckers ahead, 23-11.
When Mattituck bolted to a 5-1 lead in the second game, its fans really had something to cheer about. But No. 3 Pierson/Bridgehampton (8-11) made a serving run of its own to threaten the Tuckers. Dominique Clark served for seven straight points to pull the Whalers to within one point at 20-19.
But then, after a dink by Mattituck’s Jessica Boomer, Vaccaro served the rest of the game out.
“They made a big run on us in the second half, and we kind of fought it off,” Mattituck Coach Frank Massa said. “I think that was the match right there.”
But the most impressive stretch of serving was yet to come. When Kupiszewska was given the ball in the third game, Mattituck was leading, 5-3. By the time she was done serving in that rotation, the Tuckers were holding an 18-4 cushion, with the championship there for the taking.
“I didn’t even notice,” Kupiszewska said. “I wasn’t paying attention to the score. I just wanted to build some points so we had a big lead, and it worked.”
Pierson/Bridgehampton Coach Stacey Springer, whose seven-year-old team never won a county title, but lost to the Shelter Island Indians in a Suffolk Class D final two years ago, said: “We were very up and down tonight whereas they were much more consistent with the whole game. By the third game [we] just kind of got down and out.”
The Tuckers also did well in the area of receiving serve, which had been a concern of Massa’s. They allowed only one ace by Pierson/Bridgehampton.
And then there was another big — or, rather, tall — factor: Finnican.
“She can be unstoppable at times,” said Massa.
Finnican, a 6-foot-1 middle hitter, can hit over blockers when she’s on. She finished with 15 kills, two dinks and one block. Finnican was set up 11 times for points by Kupiszewska, who had 13 assists.
Springer said Finnican hit more and improved since Mattituck defeated her team in a non-league contest during the regular season.
Unlike two years ago when Mattituck topped the Port Jefferson Royals for its first county crown, the Tuckers were the clear favorites this time around. Did it matter? At least it did to Massa, who said he felt more pressure chasing this championship as compared to the one two years ago.
“It seemed like this one was harder,” he said. “It just seemed that way. Coming in here I knew Pierson was going to just keep fighting for ball after ball after ball after ball.”
But the Tuckers had their accurate serving — and their focus.