Following his Mattituck High School girls volleyball team’s most recent triumph, Frank Massa told reporters about the most difficult defeat in his 28-year career as coach of the Tuckers. It was in 2004 when the Tuckers faced Port Jefferson, a team it had beaten twice during the regular season, in the county final. Under the glare of the lights at St. Joseph’s College, the Tuckers essentially froze on the big stage like a deer in the headlights and lost.
The reason for the tale was that it stood in marked contrast to how the Tuckers performed in the Suffolk County Class C Tournament final on Monday night. Once again, the Tuckers were facing a team they had twice beaten during the regular season, Babylon. Playing composed and steady, the top-seeded Tuckers rolled to their third straight county championship and sixth in 13 years. With fierce hitting by Kathryn Zaloom, reliable setting by Carly Doorhy and sound defense from their back-row players, the Tuckers triumphed, 25-7, 25-15, 24-26, 25-13, at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood.
After being awarded the match point on a double-contact call, the Tuckers bunched together on the court, holding up their forefingers to signify their place in the county.
The Tuckers (16-4) will defend their Long Island championship on Saturday when they will face Carle Place or Wheatley in the Long Island final in the same Brentwood gym. They are seeking their fifth Long Island crown in six years, and with it a fifth appearance in the New York State semifinal pool over that same time span.
Coming off an impressive semifinal win over Greenport/Southold, the Tuckers once again looked organized and sharp. They allowed No. 2 Babylon (8-9) only four service aces. As for themselves, they went 97 for 99 serving, with 12 aces. Libero Meghan McKillop and defensive specialists Phurlamu Sherpa and Erin Feeney were spot on with their passing. With good passes to work with, Doorhy was able to feed sets to Zaloom and Madison Osler, the two sophomore outside hitters. Middle hitters Skyler Grathwohl and Dawn Rochon both had a positive impact at the net.
Zaloom was up for the moment, turning in possibly the best match of her brief high school career. She put away 21 kills.
The Tuckers started impressively, using an 11-0 run to forge a 17-4 lead in the first game, which they capped with an 8-1 burst. Zaloom had nine kills in that opening game, during which the Tuckers didn’t go through the rotation once. They used only three servers in that game.
Babylon’s top player, middle hitter Margot Zamet, didn’t even get to serve for the first time until the second game was almost halfway completed.
After Babylon dropped the first two games, it found the inner strength to bounce back from an 18-11 deficit in Game 3. After a kill by Osler tied the score at 24-24, the Panthers pulled out the win with a kill by Chandler McMillian and a dink by Celina Saffioti.
For the Tuckers to retain their county title, they had to put more work in. They quickly took charge in Game 4, building a 15-6 advantage. They never really looking in danger of losing, playing with the confidence of a team that had taken six of seven games from Babylon during the regular season.
Babylon setter Jillian Gaare (26 assists) and Mattituck’s Doorhy (32 assists) both tried to feed their big hitters, Zamet and Zaloom. Zamet, the sole remaining player from Babylon’s only county champion team in 2012, had 14 kills.
After the match, the Tuckers were announced, one by one, to pick up their individual awards. Then Mattituck’s three captains — McKillop, Feeney and Doorhy — were called forward and presented with the county championship plaque by Bayport-Blue Point’s coach, Toni Mulgrave. They immediately rejoined their teammates by the center of the court and Doorhy held the plaque high for all to see.
Once again, the Tuckers are county champions.