As a sophomore last season, Courtney Ficner got her first taste of varsity action as a call-up during the playoffs. She watched mostly from the bench as her teammates, a group of mainly seniors, led Mattituck to its first Long Island championship and a trip to Glens Falls for the state semifinals.
“I went in for a point, but it was the scariest thing ever,” Ficner said. “But it still felt great to be on the team.”
After Mattituck lost most of its lineup to graduation, Ficner stepped in this season as a junior for her first full year as a starter. As a middle hitter, she quickly developed into one of the team’s most reliable players, contributing across all facets of the game.
The nerves that may have been lingering last year during the playoffs clearly haven’t been an issue this season. Ficner played a tremendous all-around match Saturday afternoon against East Rockaway to help lead the Tuckers to a second straight Long Island Class C title. After dropping the first game, the Tuckers came back to win the next three.
“Unbelievable,” Mattituck coach Frank Massa said of Ficner’s performance. “The best game that she’s played for us this year.”
Massa said Ficner excelled at changing up her swings throughout the match.
“That’s what I think she does really well,” he said. “A lot of hitters get into a groove and they start putting the ball down in the same place all the time. She does about four or five different things very well and she tends to never do the same thing twice.”
Against the Rocks, Ficner recorded eight kills, equaling the team-high along with Claire Finnican. Ficner also had one dink, a service ace, two blocks and was 12 for 13 serving.
“I felt I did good,” Ficner said. “Could have been a little quicker, could have had more blocks.”
She helped close out the decisive fourth game for the Tuckers with a block for the team’s 24th point. East Rockaway, which had trailed throughout the fourth game, was beginning to close in and gain some momentum. A 22-15 Mattituck lead got trimmed down to three points after East Rockaway senior Katie Barto delivered a kill. The Tuckers grabbed the next point after a Rocks hit landed out of bounds. Then Ficner came up with a block on the right side to make it 24-19. For the final point, Ficner put away a set from Dominika Kupiszewska, igniting the Tuckers’ celebration at St. Joseph’s College.
It capped a remarkable turnaround for the Tuckers, who fell behind by 12-0 in the first game.
“We just had to shake it off and get our minds back in the game,” Ficner said.
Coming into the season Massa said he knew Ficner was going to play a big role for the Tuckers. Now in the playoffs she’s taken her game to another level. In the Tuckers’ three playoff matches, Ficner has totaled 15 kills, six dinks, three aces and three blocks. On the serve she’s 35 for 41.
“She had some great passes in the back row where she normally doesn’t play,” Massa said. “But she’s got to play there in the back and she was a beast on the net today.”