A one-win squad in 2012, the Pierson girls volleyball team stood just one win away from a Class D title on Monday night. However, the Lady Whalers’ steep climb in 2013 came to a halt at the hands of a familiar and formidable foe—their neighbors to the north, Shelter Island.
The nine-time defending Class D champion looked very much the part in the teams’ third clash this season. Despite the efforts of a veteran group, including six seniors, the Lady Whalers’ hopes of an upset fell short as the top-ranked Lady Indians rolled to a 25-15, 25-14, 25-21 triumph at Patchogue-Medford High School.
“They’re thrilled to be here, and I’m thrilled for them,” first-year head coach Donna Fischer of her team. “We just wish it turned out a little differently, but those are the breaks.”
Pierson (9-6), the third seed in the Class D draw, reached the final by stunning Stony Brook in the Class D semis in three games, avenging two losses to the Lady Bears during the regular season. The Lady Whalers hoped to repeat that feat against Shelter Island, although that was a much higher mountain to climb. They needed to take three games from a team that only lost two the entire season, and hadn’t dropped a match in league play in more than five years.
Their best chance to put a chink in Shelter Island’s armor came in game two. After a double block by Tatyana Dawson and Shannon Keane, the Lady Whalers opened up a 9-6 advantage, and were ahead 13-11 at one point. However, Shelter Island’s strong service game came to the surface as it ran off 10 straight points to take a 21-13 lead. A Keane kill stopped the spurt but it was merely a speed bump for the Lady Indians en route to a two-game advantage.
“I think they were intimidated,” Fischer said. “They made a mistake and they couldn’t get back up. We came out and beat Stony Brook 1-2-3, and that’s what they were hoping for, but we got behind and they couldn’t pick themselves back up.”
Pierson trailed by as many as nine points in game three but chipped away at the deficit, crawling to within two, 23-21, on a smash by Lilian Kunzeman. The Lady Whalers were unable to completely close the gap, and a Margaret Michalak ace sealed the victory for Shelter Island (14-1). Despite the defeat, the season was a tremendous step forward for the Pierson program.
“I’m so proud of them,” Fischer said. “Each and every one of them has worked so hard, and they improved so much.”
The Lady Indians face Section IX champ SS Seward Institute on Wednesday, November 6, in Fort Montgomery, with the winner there advancing to the state final four in Glens Falls (November 16 and 17). Meanwhile, the loss ended the careers of six Lady Whaler seniors, most notably setter May Evjen, a four-year varsity participant.
“I’m going to miss her because she’s a real leader,” Fischer said of Evjen. “She keeps the team up, she talks, she knows all the plays, she tells everyone where they’re supposed to be, she’s a cheerleader, and she’s the best athlete on the team.”
Pierson also graduates Dawson, Kunzeman, Jennah Hochstedler, Bridget Canavan and Sydney Mitchell.
“I’m so proud of what we did,” Evjen said. “I felt so close to the girls on the team, and working with them was amazing. I had a blast.”