Girls Volleyball Preview: With fond Glens Falls memories, Tuckers turn page

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Mattituck players celebrated their victory over Carle Place last year, bringing the Tuckers their first Long Island championship and a place in the state semifinal pool.

The page has been turned. Yes, it was quite a page, a page that told the story about how the Mattituck High School girls volleyball team advanced further than it ever had before, reaching the New York State Class C semifinal pool for the first time in its history.

It was a great run for the Tuckers, who went 12-9 before losing all six games they played in the state semifinal pool at the Glens Falls Civic Center. Really, though, it was the experience that mattered more than anything else to them.

“I thought the Long Island championship game [against the Carle Place Frogs] was probably the most exciting coaching experience that I had,” said Frank Massa, who is in his 25th year as Mattituck’s coach. “Going upstate was probably the icing on the cake.”

But Mattituck has changed a lot since 2010. Ten of those players have graduated, and a much less experienced group is wearing Mattituck’s colors this year.

“This is a blank page as compared to last year,” said Massa.

Just about all of the varsity experience that the Tuckers have comes in the form of two seniors, Claire Finnican and Dominika Kupiszewska. The 6-foot Finnican was an all-conference player and made the all-state tournament third team. She plays either outside hitter or middle hitter. Kupiszewska is an all-league setter. Both players are in their third varsity year.

Jackie Hinrichs, a senior libero, is technically a returning player, but she was injured for most of last season.

Opportunities should be available for outside hitter Kelly Cassidy, middle hitter Courtney Ficner, outside hitter/middle hitter Shannon Dwyer and setter Laurel Bertols.

Last year’s experience taught the Tuckers what it takes to make it to the state semifinals, namely, a bit of everything. Defense and serving were responsible more than anything else for the Tuckers’ ticket to Glens Falls.

“A lot of times when they played last year they looked like a wall, a backboard,” said Massa.

Then again, perhaps that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Good defense has traditionally been a Mattituck staple.

“One of the things that we like to stress at Mattituck is defense,” Massa said. “Against certain teams, if you play good defense, it’s going to wear them out.”

Consistency will be critical, said Massa.

Reaching the playoffs, something the Tuckers have done every year since moving from the spring to the fall season seven years ago, is going to be hard enough. Ten of Class C Mattituck’s 12 matches in League VII will be against Class B teams.

“Making the playoffs is always our first goal,” Massa said. “Sometimes the kids might have loftier goals in mind.”

Sue Kostal is back.

Well, she never really left, for too long anyway.

Five years after stepping down as the Greenport/Southold Clippers coach, Kostal is back at the post, replacing Katy Smith, the coach who had succeeded her in 2008, but is now the new Southold/Greenport girls soccer coach. Kostal took that year off from coaching after running the Clippers for the previous seven years. She coached the junior varsity team for two years.

“Now there’s more pressure on me again,” Kostal cracked.

The Clippers were co-League VIII champions two years in a row, the second of those years being in 2006, when they last reached the playoffs.

Last year the Clippers (6-7) fell one win shy of a playoff berth.

This year they have four returning starters and 10 returning players altogether.

Kostal is encountering a new situation this year. For the first time, she is coaching her daughter, Shelby Kostal, a junior outside hitter who was an all-league choice last year.

Sue Kostal said she took a year off from coaching because she didn’t want to coach her daughter. So, what is it like for her to be coaching her now?

“It’s good in some ways and it’s bad in other ways,” she said. The good part, she said, is that her daughter wants to please her. The bad part, she said, is when things don’t go right, her daughter looks to her and expects her to make an immediate fix, which is not always possible.

“So, it’s a Catch-22,” said Sue Kostal.

The coach said, “I went through the whole don’t-talk-back-to-me thing.”

In addition to Shelby Kostal, the Clippers have proven starters in junior setter/libero Megan Demarest and junior middle hitters Nina Papamichael and Kim Bracken.

For more varsity experience, the Clippers can turn to defensive specialist Gina Seas, utility player Karine Rose, defensive specialist Samantha Henry, outside hitter Marina DeLuca, right-side hitter Alexis Watchel and setter/defensive specialist Megan Van Gordon. DeLuca, an eighth-grader, will start and is a player to watch, said Sue Kostal.

The fact that the Clippers came so close to reaching the playoffs last year could be seen as a good sign for them this year, with a team that has largely remained intact.

“We’re right there,” Sue Kostal said. “We’re definitely there. We have the skill.”

One thing the Clippers don’t have on their side, though, is height. Shelby Kostal is the team’s tallest player at 5-9. “The next one under her is probably four inches shorter than she is,” said Sue Kostal.

That could be a factor, too. “We’re going to have to hit,” the coach said. “We’re going to need an offense.”

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