Even in a season last year where the Mattituck girls volleyball team won a Long Island championship and advanced to the state semifinals, its league record was a pedestrian .500 — 7-7.
Looks can be deceiving.
In League VII the Tuckers find themselves pitted against a group of teams that compete in a higher classification come playoff time. Heading into play Monday the Tuckers were 0-3 in league and 1-6 overall.
But look a little closer: two losses came against Sayville and Westhampton, strong Class A teams. Another came to Shoreham-Wading River, a bigger school that just dropped down to Class B this year. Their most recent loss came to Mount Sinai, a team that has played four straight years in the Class B county championship.
“I want to show, especially the young girls, what it looks like,” said Mattituck coach Frank Massa, describing the hefty competition his team has faced.
The Tuckers have taken their lumps to start the season, but Monday presented them an opportunity against one of the teams that really matters to them: an opponent that also plays in Class C, a team they would ultimately have to jockey against for playoff position — Greenport/Southold.
Like they’ve done so many times against the schools their size, the Tuckers shined. After dropping the first game at Greenport High School, the Tuckers bounced back to win the next three in the non-league match. They lost 25-19 to start, then won 25-12, 25-18, 25-15. Originally scheduled for 5:45 p.m., the match started at 4 p.m. before the junior varsity to accommodate a few players on Greenport’s varsity team.
“In the last three games we cut our unforced errors in half,” Massa said.
The Tuckers (0-3 League VII, 2-6 overall) struggled against the Clippers’ serve in the first game as Greenport (1-3 League VIII, 1-4 overall) tallied up aces.
“We couldn’t pass of their serve,” Massa said. “They built a lead and we couldn’t come back.”
The Tuckers turned it around in the second game and the combination of setter Laurel Bertolas and hitter Claire Finnican began to take over. Bertolas finished with 22 assists and Finnican roped 16 kills to lead the Tuckers.
Massa said it was the best game of the year for Bertolas.
“It all starts with the pass,” he said. “You got to be able to pass the ball up.”
Finnican is one of only two returning starters for the Tuckers. Early in the season it’s about about building chemistry for the Tuckers.
“The whole thing, especially in volleyball, is trust and knowing what the girl net to you is capable of doing and knowing what some of her tendencies are,” Massa said. “By playing in the same rotation with the same girls you get to know their style of play.”
Junior Courtney Ficner had a big day for Mattituck at middle hitter with 10 kills.
Mattituck gets right back to action Tuesday with a pivotal league match against Babylon at home. The Panthers are the only other Class C school in the same league as Mattituck. So every win against a Class C school helps bolster their resume and helps their chance at earning a playoff bid even if they were to finish with a below-.500 record.
“We’re not so much worried about league record because we’re playing against B teams,” Massa said. “We’re looking more to beat all the C teams that we play. This way come playoff time we can tell Section XI we played five C teams and so-and-so is in the playoffs from League VIII. We beat them, therefore, we deserve a bid.”
The Tuckers did their part Monday with a win over the Clippers. Next up comes Babylon.