It all starts with the serve.
If done correctly, it can give a volleyball team a pretty decent chance of winning the point.
Just ask the Mattituck High School girls’ team, which swept three sets against Southampton in its Suffolk County League VII home match Tuesday.
The Tuckers (4-1, 3-1) made their serves when it counted, especially behind seniors Sofia Knudsen, Carolyn Conroy and Emma Pearsall in 24-19, 25-16 and 25-18 wins over the Mariners (0-1, 0-1).
“I was much happier with our serving today, especially coming off the amount of service errors we had against Babylon,” head coach Kelly Pickering said, referring to team’s five-set home loss last Friday. “I still think it’s something we can improve on as a team.”
“We actually played better because we were all a little nervous,” Conroy said. “It was a little depressing because we were on a winning streak. We were a little scared that we weren’t going to be playing our best. We lost a little confidence, but I think we definitely got it back.”
Not every serve needs to be an ace, only to put the opposition on the defensive.
“We all have our specific qualities in our service that make them all different, but very good,” said Conroy, who finished with two aces and 14 assists.
In the second set, Knudsen, a middle blocker, recorded seven consecutive points off her serve, which turned a 2-1 lead into a 9-2 advantage.
“I was tossing the ball up at the right height and I was making sure I was using the correct part of my hand,” said Knudsen, who collected five kills, four aces and eight blocks. “I was really focusing on where I wanted to put it on the court.”
Knudsen was flashing a wide smile during her serving streak, and for a good portion of the match.
“When you have a positive attitude, it’s easier to play the game,” she said.
Pearsall, an outside hitter, and Conroy, a setter, helped stake the Tuckers to a 4-2 edge in the first set, before the duo took center stage midway through the third.
Conroy recorded three consecutive points as Mattituck pulled to a 16-10 advantage.
“I feel like I have a lot of power in my serve,” Conroy said. “Sometimes, if I’m on one side of the court, they think it’s going right there but it’ll go to the other side. It tricks them.”
With Pearsall serving, the Tuckers surged to a 20-11 margin.
“I’ve been trying to do a little bit of a floater serve for the past year, but I typically tend to do more of a spot serve,” she said. “I spot the weakest players on the other side or whoever’s having a hard time. That’s how I typically get someone to miss.”
Senior middle blocker Caroline Little contributed four kills and four blocks.
Pickering praised the play of senior libero Jolin Chen and junior outside hitter Ally Czujko.
“Jolin picks up about 95% of our balls with about 98% accuracy,” she said. “She’s been our consistent libero [back-row middle blocker] the past couple of years. She’s very special to our team. Ally’s probably been our number one server this season; an all-around good asset.”
After serving as assistant varsity and JV coach for 20 years, Pickering became head coach when Frank Massa retired last season after 36 years.
“It’s an easier transition than it would be for someone who wasn’t familiar with the program and the way it was run,” Pickering said. “These girls have known me since junior high and JV. It’s a good group to come back with. We had a successful time in JV. I welcome the opportunity to be with them and see them as seniors.”
The Tuckers’ goal is to play well in the regular season and reach the Class C final. They lost to Port Jefferson in five sets in last year’s championship after capturing the 2021 Long Island crown.
“We’re definitely looking at the playoffs,” Conroy said. “We can get there if we play our best all the time, not lose any confidence and not get our heads down. We just need to keep our heads up.”