Girls Volleyball Notebook: Tuckers proved the skeptics wrong

TIM ROSKE PHOTO | Mattituck coach Frank Massa, offering encouragement to his players, said it was "a great season" for the Tuckers.

Any season that ends in Glens Falls can’t be a bad season.

That thought was no small consolation for the Mattituck girls volleyball team, which reached the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class C semifinal pool for the second year in a row and, for the second year in a row, went 0-6 at the Glens Falls Civic Center.

If last season was a dream season, with Mattituck reaching the state semifinals for the first time in team history, this season will be remembered as the one in which the Tuckers defied the odds. That was the theme Mattituck players verbalized, with some justification, in interviews following their final game on Saturday night. After losing 10 players from their 2010 team to graduation, the Tuckers faced questions — and doubts — over whether they had what it took to return to Glens Falls.

“So many people thought we weren’t going to come this far,” said senior libero Jackie Hinrichs, who was sidelined for most of last season because of injury.

The Tuckers proved the doubters wrong, defying the odds. Perhaps toughened by the competition in League VII, where 10 of its 12 league matches came against Class B teams, Mattituck made its way back.

Two seniors, middle hitter Claire Finnican and setter Dominika Kupiszewska, were the only returning players who saw substantial playing time in 2010. Those two, along with Courtney Ficner and Hinrichs, played in Glens Falls last year, but for other Tuckers, playing under such a bright spotlight was a new experience.

How did last year’s trip to Glens Falls affect the team this year?

“I knew what I was doing a little bit more as far as preparation and stuff, so my part was a little bit easier, but I knew their part wasn’t going to be any easier,” Mattituck coach Frank Massa said of his players. “The competition, like I said, was even better so hopefully they get something out of this and they could feel good about themselves.”

The competition from Eden, Rhinebeck and Voorheesville was stiff. Eden, in particular, was a force to be reckoned with, a team with no discernible weakness and a lineup that offers one hitter after another.

“A lot of teams have just a few people that can hit, but all of their players can hit really well, and it’s really intimidating,” said Kelly Cassidy, a senior outside hitter.

No wonder Eden won all six of its semifinal pool games and then captured its third straight state title and fifth in six years. “Unbelievable” was the word Massa used to describe the Raiders.

Playing that caliber of competition puts a premium on making the routine plays. Perhaps because of the hitting they faced, the Tuckers were unable to generate much of an offensive flow in their first five games. Not a single Mattituck player had more than three kills in the four games against Eden and Rhinebeck.

“I think we played pretty good, I wouldn’t say the best that we had played,” Massa said. “We had too many periods of time where we were shanking balls, and [with] these type of teams, once you do that they run on you. The competition doesn’t allow you to make mistakes.”

Massa, who is in his 25th year as Mattituck’s coach, called it “a great year, a great season. We did what we could. What I like is we ended the season with everything we had on the court.”

BREAKING DOWN STATS Mattituck came close to its first state semifinal pool win in team history, but blew a 22-16 lead against Voorheesville and fell short, 26-24, in its final game. It was even closer than the Tuckers’ 25-22 loss to Thomas A. Edison in last year’s state semifinals.

Mattituck coach Frank Massa agreed with the belief that the Tuckers faced clearly tougher competition in Glens Falls this year than they did in 2010. Mattituck was outscored in the state semifinals, 151-85, as compared to 150-92 last year.

The postseason numbers for Mattituck and its opponents were fairly close. Against its six playoff opponents, Mattituck had smaller figures in service aces (48-29), assists (101-99), blocks (13-9), kills (96-82), serving percentage (89 percent to 88 percent) and total points (339-323). Mattituck had more dinks than its postseason opponents, 26-16.

AN AWARD FOR PELAN At 3:20 p.m., 50 minutes later than scheduled, the opening ceremony started with the teams marching onto the arena floor to the playing of dramatic Olympic-themed music, with Eden and Mattituck leading the way.

Each coach selected a sportsmanship award winner for his or her team. Cassie Pelan, a junior libero who carried Mattituck’s sign in the opening ceremony, was selected as the Tuckers’ recipient of the sportsmanship award by coach Frank Massa.

OTHER CHAMPIONS Elwood/John Glenn was the only Long Island team to win a state title. Glenn was the Class B champion. Haldane won the state Class D title. It was Haldane that defeated Shelter Island in a regional final, blocking the Indians’ path to Glens Falls.

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