TUCKERS 3, WILDCATS 0
The score after Game 1 of Thursday afternoon’s match between Mattituck and Shoreham-Wading River was as mystifying for the Tuckers as it was the Wildcats.
For two young teams still trying to navigate their way back to last year’s level of play, the League VII match figured to be tightly contested.
No one could have predicted the outcome of Game 1, a 25-3 walloping by the Tuckers over the Wildcats, igniting a three-game sweep at Mattituck High School.
“When we walked away with that [Game 1] win, I told the girls, don’t think it’s going to be that easy,” said Mattituck coach Frank Massa. “If you think that then you’re going to start letting down a little bit.”
While the Wildcats slowly began to get their legs under them as the match progressed, it wasn’t enough to avoid the sweep. Mattituck won Game 2, 25-13, and the final game, 25-19.
Shoreham coach Katherine Winkler said it was the first time all season the Wildcats opened a match so flat.
“I guess you could chalk it up to young, rookie mistakes, but it’s really not what we’re about,” she said.
The Tuckers (2-3 League VII) dominated early thanks to outstanding serving by Courtney Ficner and Emily Reimer. Ficner rolled off 11 straight service points, several aces included, that gave the Tuckers a 15-2 lead. Reimer closed out the game by serving nine straight points.
The Wildcats were left scrambling all across the court. Sloppy passing made it impossible for Shoreham to get any kind of offense going.
“We served tough that first game,” Massa said. “That was about the toughest I’ve seen these girls serve.”
Massa said that Ficner, a senior in her second full season on varsity, can serve the ball to any spot on the court.
“It’s got that top-spin on it and she hits it hard, low to the net,” he said. “When she’s on, nobody knows where the ball is going.”
While the Tuckers were strong on the serve, it wasn’t anything the Wildcats (1-3 League VII) hadn’t seen this season. Winkler said Shoreham scrimmaged against Mount Sinai Tuesday and opened the match flat before dominating toward the end.
It was the first sign Winkler saw this season of a slow start and it was enough to raise some concern prior to Thursday’s match.
“We had a huge talk before this game,” Winkler said. “You can’t waste that time warming up in the first game. You need to come out and be strong immediately.”
By the time the Wildcats got their first bit of momentum in the match, they trailed 20-5 in Game 2.
AnneMarie Taggart got the Wildcats going with three straight aces for Shoreham. She also had four aces during a stretch of nine straight service points during Game 3 as the Wildcats rallied from an eight-point hole to take a 16-14 lead. It was the largest lead for Shoreham since scoring the first two points in Game 2.
It was the kind of lull that had plagued the Tuckers throughout the season.
“A lot of our games had that section in every game we played,” Massa said. “The first two games was probably the best passing we’ve done this year both off the serve and free balls. I was really hoping we could have made it through the match without going through a stretch like that.”
The Tuckers rebounded from their one tough stretch in the match and regained the lead behind the serve of Sara Perkins. Mattituck never relinquished the lead after going ahead 18-17.
Massa said the Tuckers got Perkins back a week ago from an injury. In last year’s Long Island Championship match, Perkins was huge on the serve for Mattituck, Massa said.
“When she gets back there she has that same type of serve, very low, hard, fast and top-spin,” he said.
Winkler said Taggart, one of three captains for Shoreham, was uncharacteristically off at the beginning of the match. After taking a breather during the second game, Taggart returned the court focused.
“She was thinking too much,” Winkler said. “We had to calm her down and give her the confidence she needed and then put her back out there. When we did that she was so much better. She went out in the third game and played like the game she plays every day.”
While the Tuckers don’t have many wins to their credit, they battled through a tough non-league schedule against some tough competition like Eastport-South Manor and Westhampton.
“Hopefully that pays off in league play where they’re used to playing a lot of games against good competition,” Massa said.