SUFFOLK COUNTY CLASS C FINAL | TUCKERS 25, 25, 18, 25, PANTHERS 21, 13, 25, 19
The screams emanating from the Mattituck High School girls volleyball team’s bus could be heard from quite a distance away in the Suffolk County Community College West parking lot in Brentwood. They were screams of sheer joy. Earlier, the Tuckers were singing in the bus as they awaited their happy ride home.
A second straight county championship will generate that sort of activity.
The Tuckers had a lot to feel good about on Monday night. They successfully defended their Suffolk County Class C title, winning it for the fifth time in 12 years. They had reached the county final 10 times during that span.
“Oh my God,” setter Carly Doorhy said. “It gets better and better every year.”
Of all the triumphs Frank Massa has enjoyed since he took over as Mattituck’s coach in 1987, he rated this one as one of the most gratifying. In previous county finals, the Tuckers were either the heavy favorites or the clear underdogs. This time, though, the word in volleyball circles was that the match between No. 3 seed Mattituck and No. 1 Babylon was a tossup. The teams had split the two regular-season matches they had played. So, this rematch was seen as a coin toss. Heads, Mattituck wins; tails, Babylon wins.
It came up heads.
The defending Long Island champion Tuckers won in four games and will return to the Long Island regional final on Sunday at SUNY/Old Westbury where they will play the Nassau County champion, with the winner earning a trip to Glens Falls for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships. The Tuckers have played in the state tournament three times in the past four years.
“The whole trip here, the whole journey getting to this game, has been a struggle,” said Massa, whose team petitioned its way into the postseason.
Massa said nothing has come easily for the Tuckers this season. Why, then, should the county final have been any different?
The Tuckers won the first two games rather convincingly, 25-21, 25-13, before they hit a stumbling block. They dropped the third game, 25-18, forcing a fourth game.
“I said no matter what happens, everything is going to be all right,” Doorhy said. “I just have to leave my heart on the floor.”
With superb play from middle hitter Emilie Reimer and Doorhy, the Tuckers prevented the need for a fifth game, prevailing, 25-19.
Fittingly, Reimer slammed down a set from Doorhy on match point, setting off a celebration. The Tuckers (9-9) clustered together like atom cells, hugging each other and raising one finger in the air triumphantly.
“It was just a mass mob on the floor,” Mattituck middle hitter Colby Prokop said. “It was awesome.”
Later, while posing for a team photo, the Mattituck players held out five fingers, signifying the team’s fifth county crown.
The match promised a showdown between the big hitters on both teams — Babylon’s Margot Zamet and Mattituck’s Reimer — both of whom wear No. 6.
Reimer was once again impressive with her consistency and powerful hits. Even when the rotation moved her into the back row, she still hit well as Doorhy’s accurate sets found her.
“Everybody likes seeing the home-run hitter,” Massa said, “and she’s not swinging at those balls unless Carly’s putting it right on her hand, and I tell you what, the consistency that she puts it into the spot where she likes it is just incredible.”
Reimer finished with 22 kills. Doorhy had 20 assists.
“She’s the most aggressive player I know,” Doorhy said of Reimer. “When I set her a good set, I know she’s going to hammer it down, and that’s what she did.”
Mattituck’s well-organized defense did well challenging at the net, getting to balls and defending Zamet’s hits off the quick sets from Jillian Gaare (20 assists). Zamet had 14 kills for the Panthers (12-7).
Reimer was determined not to see her team’s season end just yet.
“Oh, a lot was at stake, the end of our season,” she said, clutching the county championship plaque to her side. “Putting on the jersey today I just felt like I never want to take it off, and it wasn’t going to end today. I wasn’t going to let that happen.”