The third time was a charm.
The third-seeded Pierson girls volleyball team knocked off second seed Stony Brook on the road in the Class D semifinals on Friday afternoon to earn a trip to the county final against top seed Shelter Island on Monday, November 4. (For results from that game, see separate article).
The Lady Whalers, who lost twice during the regular season to the Lady Bears, not only avenged those losses when it mattered most last week, but did so in convincing fashion, winning in three straight sets, 25-20, 26-24 and 25-23.
Tatyana Dawson and Shannon Keane led the attack on the front row; Dawson finished with 11 kills and Keane with seven. Libero Morgan Vaughn led the team with 25 digs.
Getting over the hump and beating Stony Brook was the result of increased team intensity, according to head coach Donna Fischer and captains May Evjen and Shannon Keane.
Some Halloween candy also helped.
“The last time we played them, some girls fell asleep on the bus ride, so this time we had some candy, we were all awake and making jokes,” Evjen said after the game when asked what the difference was between the playoff win and the previous losses. “If everyone keeps their energy up, the whole team is up.
“But it is called ‘The Pierson curse’; if one person gets down, the whole team gets down,” she continued. “All we wanted to do was forget each play, forget mess-ups.”
Keane echoed her teammate’s sentiments, saying she and her teammates simply stepped up their game.
“I think everyone was more motivated to go for the ball,” Keane said. “They were really actively playing instead of watching everything go by.”
“I think it just sunk in that this is it,” Evjen added. “We want to go far; as seniors, we want to keep going.”
Fischer added that she felt her players did a better job of preparing for Stony Brook, and had a good handle on what its strengths were and how to effectively limit the Lady Bears.
“I think they just knew exactly who the hitters were and where they hit,” she said of her team. “We practiced to how we know they play. We fine-tuned our defense and really tweaked some of our offense.”
Fischer said she emphasized serving in practice, adding that her team was both committed to serving better and also to making a better effort on serve-receive. On top of all that, though, Fischer said her team simply wanted the victory.
“They are so fired up,” she said. “I think part of it was their energy. Instead of watching Stony Brook warm up, we went into the hallway and did jumping jacks, high-fives. We really bonded.”