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Girls Volleyball: Tuckers have a lot at stake next two matches

Don’t look too far ahead.

It’s an old coaching cliché and sound advice, except for one thing: Sometimes it can be so difficult not to look ahead.

In the case of the Mattituck girls volleyball team, some of the Tuckers can’t help but consider what could be at stake Friday when they close out the regular season by hosting undefeated Port Jefferson. The match will determine the Suffolk County League VI championship one way or the other. And, just to add another dash of spice to things, it will be Senior Day at Mattituck High School.

Port Jefferson (9-0, 9-0) had taken down defending league champion Mattituck (10-2, 8-1) in three sets Sept. 20. The rematch could be as big as a regular-season match gets.

Asked if it was hard not to look ahead to the match, Mattituck outside hitter Bridget Ryan said: “I’ve been waiting for this Port Jeff match since the last time we played them, honestly. It’s been in my head for quite some time now.”

At this point, Mattituck coach Frank Massa would interject a cautionary note. The Tuckers have one match before Friday, a league encounter Wednesday at Ross, which was 4-3, 4-3 entering its match at Babylon Tuesday.

“If we don’t take care of Wednesday’s business, then Friday is a moot point,” Massa said. “So, we got to take care of Wednesday first.”

Certainly, a loss to Ross would take the air out of Mattituck’s balloon, but it’s awfully tempting to wonder, “What if?”

Mattituck has the virtually unheard of opportunity to win two league and two county titles in the same calendar year (thank you pandemic scheduling).

Jamie Swartz passing to a Mattituck teammate, with Cassidy Czujko (6) following the action. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)

In a Monday morning tune-up for its final two league matches, Mattituck turned in an emphatic, clean, three-set sweep of visiting Mount Sinai in a non-leaguer. Sage Foster put away 14 kills, Bridget Ryan had nine and Sophia Knudsen six in the Tuckers’ sixth straight win, 25-12, 25-15, 25-18. Emma McGunnigle provided 11 assists while Lilly Fogarty and Jamie Swartz added nine each.

With the reliable Ryan at the service line, Mattituck reeled off the first seven points of the first set and the first 10 of the third. Ryan served the ball 27 times without error. That’s why Massa likes to use the senior in the leadoff spot.

“Most of my girls are pretty reliable,” he said. “She can spot serve to most of the spots on the court, so we have a little communication going on and kind of quiz her on if she can hit the ball the way it’s supposed to go.

“She’s been consistent like this for the whole year. I mean, her passing, her communication with her other teammates, her hitting, and especially her serving.”

Angeline Salmon delivered nine kills and Lir Yucel brought eight kills and six assists for Mount Sinai, which took its seventh loss in 10 matches.

“We have variety,” Mattituck middle hitter Abby Woods said. “We have Sage, who’s a great hitter who can also pass, and we have Jolin [Chen] and Sophia, who are both sophomores that definitely add to our team.”

Mattituck middle hitter Abby Woods taps the ball back over the net. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)

Mattituck will need them all during this stretch run as it heads toward its 19th straight playoff appearance.

Massa, whose team has a 68-11 record dating back to 2017, said Monday “was one of our best showings of the year. Last week and this week we started working out some of the kinks, and I thought we’re starting to take care of the ball a lot better than we had at the beginning of the year.”

Meanwhile, Massa isn’t taking anything for granted. That includes what he called “probably the best Ross team that we’ve seen to date.” Mattituck swept Ross in three sets Sept. 17.

Port Jefferson is the team to beat, having won 27 sets and dropping only three.

Recounting the loss at Port Jefferson, Ryan said: “We were very shocked going into that gym because © they had a lot of fans there screaming and barking at us. So, I think that definitely got into our heads way too much, way more than it should have. And, as long as we can keep our focus on the game, I think we should be fine.”

Massa was keeping his mind on Wednesday’s match. He said, “We got to get past that first before we start thinking about anything else.”