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Girls Volleyball Preview: Tuckers loaded with experience

The final, lasting — and amazing, really — images of Mattituck’s 2016 high school girls volleyball season are of the Tuckers trading blows and going toe to toe with perennial power Elwood/John Glenn in a Suffolk County Class B outbracket match. The result aside (Mattituck lost an enthralling three-setter), the match could be considered one of the best the Tuckers had ever played, considering the caliber of the competition.

And coach Frank Massa wasn’t there to see it.

Massa had suffered a heart attack days before the match, but his absence undoubtedly motivated the Tuckers, who played hard for their missing coach.

Mattituck (9-6) will need more of those type of performances this year if it is to try to find a way past might Bayport-Blue Point and Glenn. The Tuckers won five Long Island Class C championships in six years before being reclassified to Class B last season.

It looks as if Mattituck will return to Class C next year, but in the meantime, the Tuckers will have to deal with Bayport and Glenn as huge barriers to their path to a county title.

“It’s the way the cookie crumbles, man,” said Massa.

Massa, who enters his 30th year coaching the team, doesn’t recall ever having four club players on his team before. That’s what he has now in all-conference senior outside hitter Madison Osler, sophomore outside hitter and League VII Rookie of the Year Viki Harkin, senior setter Julia Vasile-Cozzo and sophomore libero Jordan Osler, who is Madison’s sister.

Not only that, but Mattituck also has an all-league player in senior middle hitter Jaime Gaffga. Senior setter Ashley Chew was named to the all-county tournament team.

And there are more returning players. Setter Cassidy Bertolas, right-side hitters Macie Grathwohl and Ashley Burns and outside hitter Sophie Jacobs are all seniors.

Also looking to make their mark are middle hitter Jillian Gaffga (Jaime’s sister), libero Emily McKillop, middle hitters Bayleigh Rienecker, Gabrielle Dwyer, Mikayla Osmer and Rachel Janis and back-row player Lilly Russell. They are all juniors.

Massa said he doesn’t know if he has ever had this much experience on one of his team’s before.

“We got a lot of experience,” he said. “We’re hoping that we can improve on last year’s ending.”

Greenport/Southold (0-11), deep in inexperience, didn’t win a match last season. As a result of having graduated 15 players over the previous two years, Greenport had only three years of varsity experience on its roster. Attempts to reach coach Mike Gunther were unsuccessful.

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Photo caption: Mattituck’s Madison Osler hitting against a double-block attempt by Elwood/John Glenn. (Credit: Garret Meade)