Madison Osler remembers watching her Mattituck High School girls volleyball team during the preseason and wondering what the future would bring. She recalled saying to herself: “This is a mess. I don’t know how this is going to go.”
In retrospect, things went pretty well for the Tuckers. That “mess” was soon cleaned up. Mattituck split regular-season series with powers Elwood/John Glenn and Bayport-Blue Point, took second place in League VII and reached the first Suffolk County Class B final in its history.
“How far this team has come is unbelievable,” said Osler.
That unbelievable run reached the end of the line Thursday.
Try as a team may, there is no way to truly prepare for the pressure and nerves players feel when they step onto the court for a county final. Similarly, it’s hard to replicate facing the fury of Glenn’s serving.
Perhaps all of the above accounted for the disturbing pattern Mattituck observed through each of three sets on Thursday. The second-seeded Tuckers looked out of sorts as they tried to find their way. They rallied to close the gap in all three sets, but dropped them as No. 1 seed Glenn triumphed, 25-20, 25-19, 25-22, at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood.
It was the 17th county championship in 18 years for Glenn (13-1), which had a stranglehold on the title before being upended by Bayport last year. The Knights will play either Seaford or Wheatley Saturday for the Long Island regional championship in Brentwood.
Mattituck (13-4) had won five Suffolk Class C titles in a six-year span before being bumped up to Class B last year. Its first Class B final was a lesson in nerves.
“It didn’t look like us out there,” setter Julia Vasile-Cozzo said. “I think we were focused on too much of what they were doing and not enough of what we were doing. … In a game like this, you can’t come out with nerves. … You got to come our hard and strong and we didn’t do that today.”
Mattituck fell behind, 18-8, in the first set, yet managed to move within three points at 23-20. Six-time state champion Glenn went on a 10-0 tear to build a 15-7 lead in the second set before Mattituck pulled itself together, twice cutting its deficit to three points.
“We dug ourselves a hole and tried to get out,” outside hitter Madison Osler said. “That’s a very hard thing to do.”
The third set saw Mattituck fall into a 6-1 hole before tying the score on four occasions and even taking the lead at 21-20. But Glenn finished off the match with a block by Caroline Miller and a pair of kills by Caroline Garretson.
“It definitely was nerves,” said Ashley Chew, who had 26 assists for Mattituck. “We were all nervous. We told each other to relax.”
In the end, Glenn brought too much from the likes of Mia Cergol (18 kills, 17 digs, 16 assists, one block), Cassidy Evans (38 digs), Garretson (13 kills, two blocks) and Miller (19 assists, 10 digs).
Much of Mattituck’s trouble was attributed to its serve-receive difficulties, which hindered the team’s ability to get into its offense.
“What it was was John Glenn serving the ball real well and us shanking a lot of those serves and not being able to muster our offense,” said Frank Massa, who completed his 30th year as Mattituck’s coach. “And then we start throwing balls over the net to a team like this, you start throwing free balls over and they’re just going to turn around and crank it down on you. We really didn’t get a chance to get our offense moving as much as we wanted to because our passing was off. [Glenn] had a lot to do with that.”
When Mattituck did get good passes to its setters, the results were often positive for the Tuckers. Osler put away 17 kills in her final match for Mattituck and Viki Harkin had 11.
But Glenn’s defense was “stunning,” said Massa.
Summing up the season, Osler said: “I couldn’t have asked for anything better. Maybe we didn’t get the county win, but we made history.”
Vasile-Cozzo said: “We had our ups and downs, but these girls, I love them. I wouldn’t trade them for the world.”
Photo caption: From left, Mattituck’s Cassidy Bertolas, Dominique Crews and Jordan Osler during a postmatch ceremony after losing their first Suffolk County Class B final. (Credit: Garret Meade)