Good serving can atone for a multitude of sins in volleyball. When a proficient server like Jordan Osler gets on a roll, no one knows better than her Mattituck High School teammates how tough it can be to try to deliver a pass off one of her deliveries.
Asked who has the nastiest serve on the team, outside hitter Viki Harkin didn’t hesitate for a moment before answering. “Jordan,” she said. “I mean, in practice, it’s like you’re hoping it doesn’t go to you. You think it’s coming right to you, and then it drops.”
Osler’s jump-serve floater clears the top of the net like a knuckleball with little or no spin. Where it’s going exactly can be tough to gauge sometimes.
Dealing with that sort of serving was Greenport/Southold’s problem on Friday. The Porters had started off the Suffolk County League VIII match well enough and were leading, 13-11, in the first set when Osler’s second turn at serving came up. The senior outside hitter proceeded to produce wicked serves during a 12-0 run, four of those points coming on aces.
Just like that, the score was 23-13 Mattituck.
That’s what an extended serving run can do.
Mattituck, the defending Long Island Class C and League VIII champion, took the match in three sets, 25-15, 25-9, 25-18, at Greenport High School.
Similarly, in the second set, Mattituck (10-1, 8-0) reeled off six straight points while Bridget Ryan served for a 9-3 lead and Harkin served while the Tuckers tacked on eight straight points for an 18-5 cushion. Osler also opened the third set with three successive aces as her serves helped Mattituck jump out to a 5-0 lead.
“You could go on real good runs when you get hot at the service line,” Mattituck coach Frank Massa said. “That’s the most important part, I think, of the game. [The receiving team has] got to be able to get that ball up. Forget about setting and spiking if you can’t get the ball up.”
Aside from aces, there are intangible benefits that come from tough serving as the other side struggles to put its offense in motion. “Now you’re getting a lot of shanked balls over,” Massa said. “You’re getting easier passes. Then you start getting into a little bit of a rhythm.”
Points can be found at the service line where timing, toss, power and placement come together. Mattituck ran off 23 aces (to three for Greenport) and went 70-for-75 serving (93 percent). Osler finished with 12 aces from 24-for-25 serving. Harkin (12-for-14) added five aces to go with 10 kills. Miranda Hedges had 11 assists.
Harkin, recalling one of Osler’s aces, said: “The one that hit right in the corner right there, no player could get that. It’s a point.”
Osler, who played libero last season, said she worked on her serving earlier this season when she was in a “little rut. I wasn’t serving so well, so I had to work on it a lot, and getting back and performing like that makes me feel a little better.”
Serve receive difficulties by Greenport (3-6, 3-5) saw to it that the Clippers were held to one kill in the first set and 10 for the match (four by Courtney Cocheo).
Mattituck can do that to a team. After winning a league championship last season for the first time since 2004, the Tuckers look on the verge of adding a second one in as many years. They started the day with a two-game lead over second-place Pierson/Bridgehampton, which Mattituck beat in Sag Harbor earlier this season in five sets. A return match is scheduled for Oct. 16.
“There’s a good chance we’re going to see them after that,” said Massa, referring to a possible Suffolk Class C final.
Aside from that first meeting with Pierson, all of Mattituck’s other matches, with the exception of a four-setter against Ross, have been settled in three sets, including the team’s only loss, a non-leaguer against Eastport-South Manor.
“We’re trying to stay consistent, and not only from match to match, but really trying to stay consistent from set to set,” Massa said. He added, “Right now we’re working on maintaining a good level of volleyball.”
Harkin said: “You always want to have that title, and I know a lot of teams want to beat us this year, especially being undefeated [in league play]. I know that motivates a lot of people. We want to hold that title, and we’re proud of it, so we don’t want to let that go.”
Top photo caption: Senior outside hitter Jordan Osler brought Mattituck 12 aces from 24-for-25 serving against Greenport/Southold. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)