For a couple of days in mid-November, the Glens Falls Civic Center is transformed into a high school girls volleyball festival, a/k/a the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships. Mattituck was happy to be a part of that party the past two years, and the Tuckers would like nothing better than to make another return trip.
“Who doesn’t want to take that ride?” asked Mattituck coach Frank Massa, who is in his 26th year running the team.
But Massa understands what it takes to traverse the difficult, winding road through the regular season and the playoffs to make it back to Glens Falls.
“It all depends on how the girls mesh together,” he said. “It depends on the competition that you’re playing. You run into John Glenn somewhere along the way and that kind of beats your spirits up a bit.”
Mattituck took a 12-10 record into the state semifinal pool last year. For the second year in a row, Mattituck lost all six of its round-robin semifinal games, but the competition was like nothing the Tuckers had seen before, discounting the previous year’s state semifinals, of course.
A necessary step toward Glens Falls would be reaching the county final, something Mattituck has done in seven of the past eight years.
Mattituck has some familiar faces back, including several starters. In addition to senior outside hitter Alexa Orlando, senior middle hitter Courtney Ficner, junior setter Laurel Bertolas and senior outside hitter Jacklyn Jones, junior Shannon Dwyer saw a good deal of playing time in 2011. Dwyer was moved around a lot and played in the back row as well as middle hitter, outside hitter and setter. She is expected to play in the middle this year.
Three seniors — libero Cassie Pelan, outside hitter Sara Perkins and middle hitter Allie Wilcenski — also enjoyed the Glens Falls experience last year.
Carly Doorhy, a freshman setter, and Emilie Reimer, a sophomore outside hitter, are expected to figure significantly in the team’s plans.
Tricia Dorfmeister, a setter who transferred from Wisconsin, is new to the team along with six other juniors: libero Lauren Waters, outside hitter Nicole L’Hommedieu, outside hitter Kayla Healy, middle hitter Pam Batist, outside hitter Jessica Makucewicz and setter Casey Rugnetta.
Massa continues to stress the value of defense, a team trademark. “Because we’re not real big, we’ll probably have to grind out points and play strong defense,” he said. “You can always play defense and it doesn’t cost anything to hustle.”
The Tuckers have 16 players on the varsity team, with about 18 on the junior varsity team. Massa said he doesn’t like cutting players, but he lets players know that playing time must be earned. “I tell them: ‘Congratulations. What you’ve earned is a uniform, and that’s it. Everything else comes with your work and your play.’ ”
If all works out well for them, perhaps the two-time defending Long Island champions will make another road trip up north in mid-November.
Referring to last year, Massa said, “Hopefully that wasn’t the last time that I took the ride up there.”
This is the final go-around, at least in a Greenport/Southold uniform, for Shelby Kostal and three other Clippers. That presents an urgency of its own for Kostal, an all-conference outside hitter who has played with fellow seniors Megan Demarest, an all-league setter, middle hitter Kim Bracken and middle hitter Nina Papamichael since they were in seventh grade.
“When you have that kind of glue, it makes a world of difference,” said Sue Kostal, the Clippers’ coach and Shelby’s mother.
The Clippers (6-7), who missed qualifying for the playoffs by one match last season, may grab a coveted postseason place this year.
“They want the playoffs so bad that they can taste it,” Sue Kostal said. “It’s the same team [as last year], but they’re a year older. They know this is the last year for them, so they are understanding of what they have to do, and I think they’re going to be able to do it.”
Samantha Henry, an all-league sophomore defensive specialist, and Marina DeLuca, a freshman outside hitter (“Wait to you see her jump,” the coach said. “She’s a ball of solid muscle right now.”) were both starters last year.
Also returning are junior right-side hitter Gina Seas and senior defensive specialist Megan Van Gordon.
Kendra King, a good leaper who played for the team as a freshman before switching to soccer last year, has rejoined the squad. The junior will play as a right-side hitter. Three sophomores — setter Irene Raptopoulos and left-side hitter/right-side hitter Jenna Standish and middle hitter Megan Murray — are new to the team.
Speaking of her players, Sue Kostal said, “They’re better, they’re smarter, they have more court sense.”
Shelby Kostal is the team’s most accomplished player. The four-year varsity starter, an exceptional defensive player with an all-around game, is being recruited by colleges.
“She’s obviously the strongest one on the court for us,” Sue Kostal said. “She’s very consistent on every technique of the game. She can hit the ball, she can end a play. In her career she missed maybe eight serves, tops.”
With 26 players on the varsity and junior varsity teams, the Clippers have talent to work with as they compete in League VIII against the likes of Shelter Island and Port Jefferson.