Judging by the reactions of the players and their coach, this long-awaited win was worth the wait.
It wasn’t for a championship or a place in a final, but the Mattituck Tuckers pulled out their first win ever in the New York State girls volleyball semifinal pool on Saturday.
The Tuckers have reached the state semifinal pool five times in six years. They came away winless in their first four visits to Glens Falls, N.Y. Perhaps this time, they hoped, they would make team history and win their first game at that level.
Last year the Tuckers held late leads in both of their games against Spackenkill, only to lose them both by 25-19 scores.
Was this to be their year for a breakthrough?
After their first five games of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships on Saturday, the Tuckers saw their career record in state Class C semifinal pool games drop to 0-29. They had one last chance in their final game of the season, a rematch against Broadalbin Perth.
Behind some steady serving by Meghan McKillop and some timely kills by Kathryn Zaloom, the Tuckers had built a 24-17 lead. That elusive first win seemed a sure thing, no?
Not so fast. Broadalbin Perth had something to say about this.
The Patriots rallied, running off 6 straight points — three on service aces by Jordan Marshall — to pull to within 24-23.
The Tuckers might have been thinking to themselves, “Could this be Spackenkill again?”
But it wasn’t. Madison Osler drilled a set from Carly Doorhy, nailing down the final point for a 25-23 Tuckers triumph. Then she literally jumped for joy and joined her teammates in a victory hug on the court at Glens Falls Civic Center.
In the first game between the teams earlier, Broadalbin Perth won, 25-17.
The Tuckers finished the day with a 1-5 record, but coach Frank Massa later acknowledged that his players were overjoyed at breaking a barrier that had taunted them ever since they reached the state semifinals for the first time six years ago.
Mattituck’s first test Saturday morning on Court 2 was Eden. Mighty Eden, a hitting machine, took down the Tuckers twice in last year’s state semifinals. The Raiders swept all six semifinal games before sweeping Broadalbin Perth in three games for their sixth straight state championship, eighth in nine years, and a record 12th state title.
The Tuckers, interlocking their arms, bent forward and huddled together, listening to one of their captains, Doorhy, give a pep talk. Then they swung their bodies in unison, back and forth, and yelled, “Go, Mattituck!” before heading off to face a volleyball powerhouse.
Eden, the team with no discernible weakness, looked headed for a repeat. Eden’s strong serving helped the Raiders topple the Tuckers, 25-10, 25-15.
Mattituck’s usually reliable serve receive enabled the Tuckers make it back to Glens Falls. It’s a testament to Eden, which delivers serves with nasty topspin, that the Raiders totaled 16 aces from 93.9-percent serving against Mattituck.
Paiton Basinski is an especially tough server. The Eden freshman served for five straight aces as the Raiders jumped out to a 6-1 lead in the first game. Basinski finished the two games with nine aces.
The Tuckers scored the first point in both games. They were the only leads they held against Eden.
The Tuckers had their moments when they were able to return serve and keep the ball in play, but Eden’s hard-swinging hitters Sam Burgio (10 kills) and Meghan Ballou (nine kills) were too tough to handle. Alyssa Durski, who had 16 assists, kept a steady supply of sets heading their way.
If the Tuckers were expecting an easier time against their next opponent, Millbrook, they were disappointed. Millbrook and its exceptional outside hitter/middle blocker, Megan Fergus, handled the Tuckers, 25-14, 25-15. Fergus, a 5-foot-11 senior who crushes the ball, blasted 13 kills. Her setter, Kayla Gusikoff, had 22 assists.
Millbrook took charge of its first game against the Tuckers, with a pair of kills and a block by Fergus setting the tone and helping the Blazers to a 6-0 lead. The Tuckers drew to within 11-9 before Millbrook added to its advantage.
The Tuckers put up more of a battle early in the rematch, forcing Millbrook to take the lead five times before building a 22-11 lead.
At 7:38 a.m., two minutes ahead of schedule, the teams paraded into the cold arena to the playing of Olympic-themed music. McKillop, a senior libero, led the way, holding the Mattituck sign during the opening ceremony.
Each coach recognized one player who had a positive impact on the success of their team with a sportsmanship award. Amanda Young, a junior defensive specialist, was the Mattituck player honored.
Eden advanced to play Millbrook in Sunday’s Class C final. Eden went 6-0 and Millbrook went 4-2.
Photo Caption: Mattituck’s Caroline Keil (11) and Dawn Rochon (9) go up for a block Saturday in the state semifinals in Glens Falls. (Credit: Jim Ellis)