LONG ISLAND REGION FINAL | TUCKERS 25, 25, 25, ROCKS 21, 18, 20
The Mattituck High School girls volleyball team has developed something of a habit in recent years, and it’s not a habit the Tuckers want to break.
Another year. Another regional championship plaque. Another trip to Glens Falls.
The Tuckers didn’t care much for the way their Long Island region final match against East Rockaway started on Sunday, but they had to love the way it ended. It ended with the Tuckers securing their fourth appearance in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships in five years.
This could be considered the golden age for Mattituck volleyball. After having never reached the state semifinal pool before, the Tuckers made history when they did so for the first time in 2010. They then repeated the feat in 2011, did it again in 2013, and are headed back to the state stage yet again next weekend.
After Emilie Reimer slammed down her 24th kill to end the match, the Tuckers flooded the court at SUNY/Old Westbury’s Clark Athletic Center, joined in a large group hug and waved their forefingers, signifying Mattituck as Long Island’s top Class C team. All the while, their sign-holding fans cheered and cheered.
Mattituck outside hitter Lizzie Wilcenski called the trip to Glens Falls for the state tournament “the long nine-hour road trip that everybody is so happy to take, just the feeling in your heart that you literally feel like you’re flying.”
With their 25-21, 25-18, 25-20 triumph, the Tuckers (10-9) not only gave themselves a winning record, but they punched a ticket to the Glens Falls Civic Center on Saturday.
“It’s incredible, so exciting and overwhelming,” said Mattituck setter Meghan McKillop.
The Long Island final didn’t start promisingly for the Tuckers. Perhaps nerves had something to do with their slow start, which saw them fall behind, 8-1.
Even a veteran player like Reimer wasn’t immune to the weight of the pressure that was felt. “Even being in the situation before, I was more nervous than anything because I knew what was on the line,” said the senior middle hitter.
But the Tuckers gradually chipped away at East Rockaway’s lead. They battled back, tying the score at 12-12 on a kill by Lisa Angell.
“We knew right then and there that this was the make or break” game, said Reimer.
Later, they pulled ahead for good while Wilcenski (17 of 17 serving) was at the service line. The Tuckers closed out the opening game on a 9-1 run, with a dink by Reimer sealing the comeback.
If the opening setback was dispiriting to East Rockaway (6-13), it didn’t show. The Rocks played the Tuckers fairly evenly in the second game before the Tuckers finished that game with a 10-3 burst, punctuated by Reimer’s crushing hit of a misplayed ball by the Rocks on game point.
Except for when they trailed at 1-0, the Tuckers were never behind in Game 3, but the game was close. The Tuckers twice held 6-point leads.
The Tuckers must have sensed themselves moving closer and closer to Glens Falls with each point.
Recollecting her reaction to the final point, Reimer said: “I honestly forgot the score. I looked at [setter] Carly [Doorhy] and she gave me that look and I was like, ‘We did it.’ ”
Reimer, who has accounted for 75 of Mattituck’s 84 kills in its three playoff matches, was once again a major factor. She was fed a steady supply of sets by Doorhy, who had 26 assists.
Receiving serves had been a problem for the Tuckers earlier in the season. Apparently no more. They conceded only 3 service aces to East Rockaway.
“These last two weeks, they have played their best volleyball of the season,” said Mattituck coach Frank Massa.
Reimer, whose voice was hoarse by the time she spoke in a postmatch interview, said going to the state tournament is the best experience a player can have. “You’re all together and you’re on the bus,” she said. “There’s nothing compared to it. You’re in an arena, you’re not in a gym.”
Although she confessed to having harbored doubts at the start of the season that the Tuckers had what it takes to advance this far, Reimer was overjoyed that those doubts have long since dissipated. She said, “You’ll see us at the states 2014.”