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Girls Volleyball: Tuckers repeat as league champs

After waiting for their first league championship in 14 years last season, the Mattituck High School girls volleyball team didn’t wait nearly so long for another league title.

The Tuckers brought themselves back-to-back Suffolk County League VIII crowns Monday when they assured themselves of at least a share of the title with a three-set win at Ross School in East Hampton.

It was almost anticlimactic. There was no grand celebration following Mattituck’s 25-8, 25-14, 25-7 trouncing of winless Ross. Perhaps that was because this first title of the season for the Tuckers could be seen coming from a distance. But, make no mistake, they felt good about it.

“I love it,” senior middle hitter Charlotte Keil said. “It’s a lot of pride, especially in a small town like Mattituck because everyone knows what’s going on and everyone is rooting for us to be successful.”

Mattituck (12-1, 9-0) can clinch sole possession of first place Wednesday with a home win over second-place Pierson/Bridgehampton (8-2, 6-2). The Tuckers took the Whalers down in five sets the first time they played this season. Mattituck’s next match after that will be its regular-season finale at Babylon (3-6, 3-6) on Oct. 23.

Mattituck senior outside hitter Viki Harkin said shouldering the load of being a defending league champion is “a lot of pressure. We have our name out there now as a pretty good team, so it’s a lot of pressure, but I think we’re handling it well. We’re excited to play good teams and be challenged this year.”

The Tuckers know a thing or two about challenges. More often than not, they seem to meet them.

“Of course [I’m] very happy that we were able to accomplish this, but we have some more goals that we have to accomplish,” said coach Frank Massa.

The first goal — qualifying for the playoffs — has already been secured. The defending Long Island Class C champions are headed to their 17th straight postseason, quite an achievement in itself. From there the Tuckers hope to earn county and Long Island titles and a place in the state semifinal pool for what would be a seventh time.

“A lot of the same emotions as last year, you know, there’s excitement,” Keil said. “We’re making history, yada, yada, yada, but I feel like our team dynamic’s a little different this year. It might be just that we’re seniors now and we’re more like leaders on the team, but I feel like every single person on the team is genuine friends, on and off the court, and that makes our team dynamic a lot better.”

Ross (0-8, 0-8) had its hands full against Mattituck, which had no trouble Monday. The Tuckers never trailed, picked up 23 aces from 93% serving and put away 20 kills to Ross’ seven. The hard-hitting Harkin (11 kills, seven aces, one assist) and Keil (six kills, three aces, one block, one assist) crushed balls set up by Miranda Hedges (13 assists, four aces).

“It’s so fun when you set them and they get this major kill,” Hedges said. “It makes you feel like such a part of it.”

They were joined in the starting lineup by outside hitter Jordan Osler, middle hitter Bridget Ryan, right-side hitter Rylie Skrezec, setter Ashley Young and libero Julia Schimpf.

It was Mattituck’s second match without right-side hitter Sage Foster, who suffered a knee injury in an Oct. 4 contest against Greenport/Southold.

Keil said it’s a fun team to play for. “I think we have so much fun, but we also get the job done,” she said. “I love practices every day because it’s like [being] with your best friends and we just have fun but also we work hard and we’re really driven. I just love the team.”

There’s a lot to love about the way the Tuckers are playing and the possibilities that lie ahead. “We’re just excited to see what happens next,” said Hedges.

Senior-dominated Mattituck is built to win now, and that’s what those seniors want to do. Having a winning history is nice but …

“It doesn’t matter what has happened in the past, really,” Massa said. “It matters what is happening right now. If right now we’re winning, then you’re taking pride in that. You can be proud of past accomplishments but, you know, we’re living in the here and now.”

And right now, they’re league champions.

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Photo caption: Charlotte Keil (six kills, three service aces, one block, one assist) knocks a ball over the net during Mattituck’s three-set win at Ross School. (Credit: George A. Faella)