After reaching such intoxicating heights not once, but two years in a row, the Mattituck High School girls volleyball team was just like everyone else on Monday morning — back to square one with its first preseason practice. Time to start over again from scratch.
So there were the Tuckers, in the Mattituck High School gym, going through basic drills under the watchful gaze of their coach, Frank Massa. It was the first small step in a long journey that they hope will yet again take them to Glens Falls.
Coming off a breakthrough season in 2010 when it reached the New York State Class C semifinal pool for the first time in team history, Mattituck returned to Glens Falls Civic Center last fall for another appearance in the state semifinal pool and another dream season and another set of wonderful memories.
The Tuckers, who took a 12-10 record into the state semifinal pool, have yet to win a game on the state stage. They are 0-12 in their two years in the state semifinal pool, but getting there was the big thing.
“It was crazy,” senior outside hitter Alexa Orlando said. “It was probably the best experience of my life, I would have to say. Even though we got beat and everything, it was awesome.”
Mattituck did flirt with what would have been its first state semifinal win, putting a scare into defending state champion Voorheesville before finally succumbing after holding a 22-16 lead.
But things must be kept in perspective. The Tuckers saw a sort of competition that they haven’t seen before they made their first trip to Glens Falls two years ago.
“It’s really tough going upstate because you’re playing against really great teams,” senior middle hitter Courtney Ficner said. “We had to work hard. When we really put our minds to it, we actually played really well. It just felt great going up there again.”
In addition to Ficner and Orlando, Mattituck has five other returning players who likely benefitted from the Glens Falls experience: junior setter Laurel Bertolas, senior libero Cassie Pelan, senior outside hitter Sara Perkins, senior middle hitter Allie Wilcenski and junior setter/outside hitter Shannon Dwyer.
Can the Tuckers head north and extend their season into mid-November once again?
“I think we’re going to have to work a lot, but I think we can do it,” Ficner said. “If everyone really focuses and does what they need to do and works together and communicates, we can do it again.”
For one thing, the Tuckers have a good idea now of what it takes to advance that far into the postseason. What used to be unknown territory is no longer unknown.
Orlando said last season’s achievement was a big step for the team. “No one really thought we could do it,” she said. “I don’t think we even thought we could at first. It just gives us hope for this year, I guess.”