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Girls Volleyball: Tuckers raise their game for recuperating coach

Mattituck volleyball coach Kelly Pickerig 110316

A wave of emotion swept over the members of the Mattituck High School girls volleyball team Monday when they heard the disturbing news that their beloved coach, Frank Massa, had suffered a heart attack on Saturday. Tears were shed, players said.

On Thursday, the Tuckers responded in a different way when they stepped on the court for their playoff match against perennial power Elwood/John Glenn. The consensus was that had Massa been present to watch the match, he would have been beaming with pride.

Massa, who is in his 29th year as Mattituck’s coach, was home recuperating. He had sent a text message to the players before the Suffolk County Class B outbracket match in East Northport, wishing them well, said Kelly Pickering, the junior varsity coach who ran the team in Massa’s absence.

Although Massa wasn’t present, the manner in which he prepared his team was evident. Facing the fury of Glenn’s hard-hitting drives, Mattituck’s defense was stellar as the Tuckers turned in their best match of the season, albeit a 25-20, 25-17, 25-19 loss. Glenn (12-2), seeking its 17th straight county championship, will face top-seeded Bayport-Blue Point (13-1), the team it shares the League VII title with, in the county final Monday at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood.

Mattituck (9-6) turned in an impressive performance in the well-played, entertaining match. As good as the Tuckers were at digging out Glenn’s powerful hits and keeping balls in play, the Knights were just too much for them, with 36 kills, twice as many as Mattituck.

Glenn throws an awful lot at opponents, with balls coming from just about every direction. Mia Cergol (28 assists) spread out the wealth. Maggie McGuckin put away eight kills while Sarah Weitman, Isabella Sansanelli and Caroline Garretson had seven apiece. Emma Hines chipped in six.

Pickering sent out a starting lineup of Sam Husak, Kathryn Zaloom, Viki Harkin, Riley Hoeg, Madison Osler and Ashley Chew. They all played well. Most notably, Osler slammed down 10 kills, Chew had 16 assists and libero Jaimie Gaffga turned in the sort of fine defense that the Tuckers needed in order to hang with a team of Glenn’s caliber.

Mattituck has won Long Island Class C championships in five of the past six years before being reclassified as a Class B team for this season.

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Photo caption: Mattituck junior varsity coach Kelly Pickering ran the team in Frank Massa’s absence for Thursday’s playoff match at Elwood/John Glenn. Massa suffered a heart attack on Saturday. (Credit: Garret Meade)