SPORTS DESK/Bob Liepa: Reaching the end of the road in Glens Falls

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck fans wore concerned looks on their faces as they watched the Tuckers take on the top teams in the state.


Sad to say, parts of this small city, located some 45 miles north of Albany, have a rundown air to them. Small houses in disrepair with no lawns line Main Street and form a depressing sight. The flagging economy certainly hasn’t done Glens Falls any favors.

In 1944, Look Magazine referred to Glens Falls as “Hometown USA.” The city also refers to itself as the “Empire City,” according to Wikipedia. Surely, Glens Falls has seen better days, and one can only hope that better days are in its future.

To sports-minded individuals, Glens Falls is best known as the site of the Glens Falls Civic Center, home to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association boys basketball championships. But the Glens Falls Civic Center is also the home of the NYSPHSAA girls volleyball championships, the desired destination for every high school team in the state. Only four teams in each of the state’s five classifications made it to Glens Falls for the state semifinal pool play, the Mattituck Tuckers and Shelter Island Indians among them.

Both Long Island champion teams shared the ride to Glens Falls where their participation in the championships began and ended on Saturday. Neither side advanced beyond semifinal pool play. Mattituck went 0-6 in Class C and Shelter Island went 1-5 in Class D, but what an experience it was for both of them to compete against the state’s best.

“We’ve never gone this far before, so anything farther than Long Island, it’s incredible for us and the school,” Mattituck senior middle hitter Kim Krupski said. “It’s hard to believe.”

It really is hard to believe. Look at how far the Tuckers went without a real power-hitting game. Aside from some occasional blasts by Claire Finnican and Stefanie Loverde, finishing points was not Mattituck’s strength, and the Tuckers were going to be limited in how far they went. Sooner or later they were going to run into a complete team with the ability to finish points with hard-driven kills and that would be it. But who knew that the end of the road for them wouldn’t come until they had gone all the way to Glens Falls? Even the Tuckers themselves seemed to have trouble believing it.

“We wanted to come here,” Lilly McCullough, a senior outside hitter, said. “It was always in the back of our mind, but we kind of said it in passing as a joke, not as a joke, I guess, but we just didn’t expect that we’d actually be here. It was pretty amazing.”

Amazing, yes. But also give credit to Coach Frank Massa, who has a knack for getting the most out of his players. Mattituck’s ascension to the NYSPHSAA Championships is a tribute to the value of consistent serving and hustling defense.

With victories over the Pierson/Bridgehampton Whalers and the Carle Place Frogs, Mattituck secured Suffolk County and Long Island titles to earn the trip upstate. “Everything just fell in place for us this year,” said McCullough.

But then the Tuckers ran into trouble in the form of the Voorheesville Blackbirds, Thomas A. Edison Spartans and Falconer Central Falcons. All three took two games apiece from Mattituck, although the Tuckers did stay within three points of Thomas A. Edison in one game.

But the Tuckers battled and earned a standing ovation from their enthusiastic fans, who seemed to enjoy every moment of the postseason ride.

“I can’t really look at it in a bad way that we lost because we did so much to get here, so it’s not so disappointing,” Mattituck senior outside hitter Jessica Boomer said. “I mean, it would have been great to win, but we did what we could and it’s great just to get here.”

Shelter Island, meanwhile, made its best showing in its fourth appearance in the state semifinals since 2004. The Indians scored an historic first by winning their first semifinal game in team history in their first game on Saturday, 25-23, over the Argyle Central Scottie Dogs. Although the Indians lost their next five games, they did a lot of good things and put up an admirable performance against some really tough competition. They lost one game by three points and another by four.

“The competition is good, that’s for sure,” said Kelsey McGayhey, Shelter Island’s superb junior middle hitter who showed that she deserves to be considered among the top hitters in the state. “Overall, we did exceptionally well. We pushed through and we had our moments. It was fantastic.”

Some of Shelter Island’s best moments came in its final two games against Randolph Central and its outstanding junior outside hitter, Marah Maycock. (Not surprisingly, Randolph Central defeated the Haldane Blue Devils in four games on Sunday to claim its third state championship). McGayhey and Stephanie Vecchio pounded hits off sets by Haley Willumsen, but Randolph popped a number of them up. Shelter Island did likewise, but still came up short, losing those games, 25-16 and 25-18.

“It was never boring,” said Vecchio, a senior outside hitter who made her third appearance in the state semifinals. “We were always moving, always cheering.”

Shelter Island Coach Cindy Belt could appreciate how far her team had gone and how much it had accomplished, going 22-5-1 before the state semifinals.

“It’s special,” she said. “We’re one of four in the state.”

A season that ends in Glens Falls can’t be considered a bad one at all.

[email protected]