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Girls Volleyball: Mattituck falls in decisive fifth set of county final, ending Massa’s 36-year career

One by one, several puffy-eyed members of the Mattituck girls’ volleyball team solemnly walked out of Room 268 at Hauppauge High School on Monday night.

The two-time defending champions were emotional after having played their hearts out for their coach, Frank Massa, who was coaching in his 36th and final year but fell short in the Suffolk County Class C championship.

They wanted to prolong Massa’s coaching career for as long as possible. But a resilient Port Jefferson team had other things on its mind and spoiled Mattituck’s plans by rallying to win the five-set final, 3-2.

Top-seeded Mattituck (14-3) captured the first two sets, 25-19 and 23-21, but the No. 2 Royals (16-3) rallied to win the final three, 25-17, 25-17 and 15-12.

“Mr. Massa is an amazing coach,” said senior co-captain Abby Woods. “We’re always able to joke around with him. He knows what advice to give us. He knows what to say to bring us out of a funk. He’s a well-spoken man. We all love him. We were all wanting to win for him. He’s seen it all. He’s been there. He’s done that.”

Senior co-captain Sage Foster concurred. “This was for him. Let’s keep it going for him,” she said.

It just wasn’t meant to be.

A couple of minutes after Port Jefferson’s Erin Henry had put the finishing touches to the Royals win with one of her many kills on the final touch in the fifth set, Mattituck athletic director Greg Wormuth gave Massa a hug on the court before the coach spoke to his team.

Sage Foster goes up for a hit at the net. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)

If Massa was emotional, he wasn’t showing it.

“It’s not the best way to go out,” he said.

“Well, right now, we’re going to put a end to this chapter. It’s been a 36-year career and well, we’ll leave it at that.”

Still, Massa felt he was fortunate to coach such talented players over the years.

“In my estimation, I’ve been lucky,” he said. “I’ve coached some of the best young ladies in Mattituck. Some of the best volleyball players developed through that school. It’s a good school. I was in luck that I was in that position to be able to spend time with them. A couple of nights I’ve spent with athletic highs and athletic lows. I will remember a lot of those rest of my life.”

Massa said that he enjoyed coaching the 2022 Tuckers.

Sofia Knudsen slams the ball but Port Jefferson’s Mia O’Connell deflected it. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)

“This team was special,” he said. “We had a lot of experience, a lot of talent coming back. I knew that we’d make a run. We thought that we would end up on the opposite end of this coin, but we didn’t.”

The county final was highly anticipated encounter. The teams split their League VII encounters this season, both winning 3-1, on their home court.

Confrontation No. 3 was held at a neutral venue.

With several dozen enthusiastic supporters cheering them on, the Tuckers looked very strong, winning the opening two sets, but couldn’t hold the momentum.

“We didn’t get our serves over, and our passing was definitely a key thing that made us get below them,” Foster said.

More problems arose as the night waned on.

“We started off fast. They started off slow,” Massa said. “We got two-set to none lead. Then they started cleaning up a lot of their play. We started having a lot of unforced errors, especially with our serving, and they were taking advantage of that. Our offense slowed down. We were throwing a lot of free balls over and they were just ripping them at us. We started getting back to where we were but not enough. They were flying high and taking care of balls that we were in the first two games. We lost to a better team.”

The Royals will face Nassau County champion Oyster Bay for the Long Island Class C title at Hauppauge on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

“Port Jefferson played really good,” Woods said. “I think they did what they did best which was keep the ball alive. They outplayed us. I think we were the better team [entering the final]. We just fell short and didn’t play to the best of our ability.”

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