Volleyball may be the ultimate team game.
In no other sport, I think, are the players tied together, almost as if by a rope. The six players on the court are inextricably linked, the success of one player depending on the ability of the player next to her, and so on. Without a libero or a defensive specialist making an accurate pass to the setter, there will be no set for the hitter. No matter how good a hitter a team has, she is nothing more than window dressing unless her teammates can get her the ball in a good hitting position.
Each player’s performance affects that of another. Strong players can pull up weaker players and vice-versa. It’s all connected like complex wiring inside a TV set.
Those thoughts came to mind Thursday when Mattituck’s difficulty at times in handling Elwood/John Glenn’s serving impeded the Tuckers’ ability to get their offense into gear.
It wasn’t as if Glenn had a ton of service aces (it had five of them), either. What proved troublesome was the placement of those serves.
“They definitely know where to serve you,” Mattituck outside hitter Madison Osler said. “They were serving us deep and short.”
In the end, Glenn served up a winner.
The Knights won, 25-20, 25-19, 25-22, collecting their 17th Suffolk County championship in 18 years at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood.
“I told the girls, whoever’s going to win that part of the match is going to end up winning the whole match, and our serve receive just wasn’t up to where it should be,” said Mattituck coach Frank Massa.
Mattituck’s first appearance in a Suffolk Class B final clearly didn’t go the way the Tuckers would have preferred, and that’s not even because of the final result. They had spurts in each of the three sets when they struggled, only to then put things together and look like they have for most of the season — pretty darn good. At times they were trading blows with six-time state champion Glenn, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. The teams had split their two regular-season matches against each other.
“I really thought that we were going to walk out of here with a W, but it wasn’t in our favor today,” said Julia Vasile-Cozzo, Mattituck’s setter/defensive specialist.
A pattern had emerged in which Mattituck got off to rough starts in each set and dug itself a deep hole. Then, the next thing you know, here comes Mattituck, battling back to make things interesting.
“We really put our hearts into it,” setter Ashley Chew said. “We tried our best.”
Serve receive and passing — the glue of volleyball — were issues, but credit must be given to Glenn. Mattituck wasn’t playing in a vacuum. “Stunning” was the word Massa used to describe Glenn’s defense.
“They were just getting more pickups than we were,” Osler said. “I think our defense could have been better, but [the Knights were] just picking up balls left and right and I haven’t seen them play that well all season, so congrats to them.”
And congratulations to Mattituck for a successful season.
“Of course it’s heartbreaking when it ends like that,” Massa said. “I’m glad that we’re here today and we got to play in that game.”
Photo caption: Mattituck setter Ashley Chew had 26 assists in the Suffolk County Class B final against Elwood/John Glenn. (Credit: Garret Meade)
Bob Liepa is the sports editor of the Riverhead News-Review and The Suffolk Times. He can be reached at [email protected].