The Mattituck High School girls volleyball team knows there’s no place like home. So the Tuckers kept telling themselves that, clicked their heels together and their wish appears to have come true.
By wrapping up its regular season Monday night with a 25-15, 25-16, 25-11 road win over Hampton Bays, Mattituck secured second place in Suffolk County League VII. But, more importantly, the Tuckers also earned what coach Frank Massa believes will be a home Suffolk Class B playoff match against Bayport-Blue Point on Nov. 2.
“That’s good for us because it’s our home territory, our home field,” Mattituck junior Jaime Gaffga said. “We have the support of our fans and we’re comfortable there.”
How important is the home-court advantage?
Well, in the two matches between the teams this season, Mattituck and Bayport have each won in their own gym.
“I think that was the difference between playing Bayport at their place and playing Bayport at our place,” Mattituck senior Madison Osler said. “We were comfortable and I think the crowd was the biggest difference in that game because we had the supporters.”
What Mattituck (12-3, 10-2) doesn’t have — at least momentarily — is the on-court presence of its No. 2 hitter, Viki Harkin. The sophomore outside hitter has missed five matches since rolling an ankle. Harkin watched Monday’s match in street clothes. The timing of her return remains a question mark.
“I know that the best six players that I got will be out on the court against Bayport,” said Massa.
How important will it be to have Harkin on the floor?
“It’s important to have everybody healthy and ready to go,” Massa said. “Viki’s a big part of the team, just like everybody else that’s here. Come that day, we’re going to give it the best shot that we got with the girls that we got.”
In Harkin’s absence, Mattituck has gone 4-1. Massa moved Gaffga from middle hitter to outside hitter, with Osler the other outside hitter and Jillian Gaffga and Rachel Janis playing in the middle.
“We have an experienced player in Jaime Gaffga,” Massa said. “She moved over to the outside, so we’ve lost absolutely nothing defensively because she’s one of the best passers on the team. So, we didn’t lose anything at all from that standpoint. Viki’s a little bit better offensive player, has got a nice technique, a good swing.”
Osler did her fair share of hitting Monday, putting away a match-high 14 kills, with most of the setting for her coming from Ashley Chew (12 assists, 19-for-20 serving, three aces). Mattituck, winner of five of its last six matches, was hardly troubled as it took care of Hampton Bays (6-10, 2-10) in three sets for the second time this season.
“I think we’ve been doing really, really well,” said Jaime Gaffga, who went 15-for-15 from the service line, with two aces and three kills. “I think we have a lot of momentum going in the right direction. I feel like we’re definitely ready.”
Osler said Harkin’s presence on the court would be “huge.” Osler, who captains the team along with Julia Vasile-Cozzo and Jaime Gaffga, said of Harkin, “She’s quick, she’s fast, she’s loud, so we need her back as soon as possible.”
Massa had a positive assessment of what his team has done in the regular season, finishing second to Elwood/John Glenn (11-1, 11-1) and one notch above Bayport. Bayport was 8-4, 8-3 entering its home match against Southampton Monday.
“If somebody before the season started said to me: ‘Coach, will you take a 10 and 2 record, beating John Glenn and Bayport in consecutive matches?’ I would say, ‘Alright, sign me up for that,’ ” Massa said. “I can’t say that I’ve been disappointed really in any match that we’ve played. Like every other team you have your ups and downs. Hopefully now we can put it all together and make a nice run.”
“This is the best time to coach, without a doubt,” he continued. “Everything here is gravy. Our expectation is to make the playoffs every year and we’ve accomplished that, and I think the girls can see that we do have a realistic possibility of going a little further.”
It should all start at home.
Photo caption: Madison Osler, who put away 14 kills for Mattituck, drives the ball between Hampton Bays’ Hannah Hansen, left, and Olivia Lofstad. (Credit: Garret Meade)