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Girls Volleyball: Tuckers feel at home at Cutchogue East

When a tornado tore through Mattituck Sept. 25 and damaged the roof over the high school gym, the Mattituck girls volleyball team was left homeless.

Not for long, though. The Tuckers fortunately had access to the more than adequate gym at nearby Cutchogue East Elementary School. That is their home for the remainder of the season.

“It’s a little different, but it’s the same game,” senior outside hitter Abby Woods said. “It’s a court, you know. It’s still a big gym.”

Indeed. The Cutchogue East facility is spacious, well-lit and has a high, volleyball-friendly ceiling.

As for the volleyball being played on that court, the first-place Tuckers certainly can’t complain about that.

In its second match at Cutchogue East, Mattituck defeated neighboring Greenport/Southold in straight sets Thursday. All three sets were settled by identical 25-16 scores.

The match could have possibly been the last time Greenport coach Mike Gunther and Mattituck coach Frank Massa have faced each other as opponents. Both coaches attended Patchogue-Medford High School, graduating one year apart before embarking on parallel coaching careers. Gunther has said this is his final season coaching. The coaches posed for photos together before the match.

What has it been like coaching against Massa all these years?

“I look forward to it,” Gunther said. “It’s like, you know, we always go down memory lane.”

Massa said: “We’ve had a lot of good battles. You know, he’s had it one-sided and I’ve had it one-sided at different periods of times over the 36 years, but it’s always great coaching against him.”

In recent years, Massa’s Tuckers have had the advantage. Mattituck is looking to duplicate the sort of success it achieved last year when it shared a league title with Port Jefferson, won the Suffolk County Class C championship and played in the state semifinal pool for a seventh time.

“We all have our eyes on states, definitely,” said Woods.

Greenport/Southold’s Lilly Corwin (11 kills) tries to tip the ball past Mattituck’s Carolyn Conroy (21 assists). (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)

While Mattituck (10-1, 10-0 League VIII) is trying hold off Port Jefferson, which it shared a league title with last year, and is gearing up for a 20th straight postseason, Greenport (4-7, 4-6) is battling for its playoff life. The Porters need to win three of their final four regular-season matches against Shelter Island, Pierson/Bridgehampton, Babylon and Smithtown Christian in order to see the postseason. Greenport beat two of those teams in the first half of the season.

“I think we have a good chance if we play to the best of our abilities,” Greenport outside hitter Lilly Corwin said. “We definitely have the skill to make it. We just got to execute.”

Gunther said Greenport is making strides after a less-than-optimal start to the season. “We had a lot of errors in the serving department, in the hitting department and our serve receive, it was all just not happening early against Pierson,” he said. “I would say that we’re fixing — we haven’t fixed all that — but we’re fixing it and so we’re moving forward.”

Greenport gave a good account of itself Thursday, but Mattituck brought too much, particularly with Sage Foster, who put away 15 kills and went 17-for-17 serving. Carolyn Conroy provided 21 assists and Woods added six kills.

Corwin blasted 11 kills and Sally Jordan had five for Greenport, which received 20 assists from Hannah Santacroce.

Gunther said: “It’s the best I’ve seen them all season. And I wouldn’t mind seeing Mattituck in the playoffs — or anybody.”

Since players on the neighboring teams know each other, it added more juice to the match.

Foster said: “I was talking to Lilly Corwin after and my dad was like, ‘You’re supposed to be friends, like you’re not supposed to be bashing balls at her.’ ”

Massa is preparing his team to be playoff-ready. The playoffs are another level, with higher stakes.

“You get the mental state, you know,” he said. “Physically, you have to be on top of your game.”

And should playoff matches be played at Cutchogue East, so be it.

“A volleyball court is the same size as anyplace else,” Massa said. “We get plenty of people to come watch, plenty of spectator room. It’s well lit. It’s a great place to play volleyball.”