It nearly happened again.
The Pierson/Bridgehampton volleyball team fell behind two sets to none in Monday’s Suffolk County Class C Championship game, just as they did last year. But this time they did not roar back to beat Stony Brook on their way to Glens Falls and the New York State Championships.
Since that day last year, Stony Brook has moved out of Section XI to compete as a private school and Mattituck, Pierson’s opponent at Shoreham-Wading River High School on Monday, has returned to Class C after two seasons in Class B and dominated League VIII with an undefeated record, including two wins over Pierson in the regular season.
It looked like it would be more of the same on Monday as Mattituck, led by junior outside hitter Viki Harkin, jumped out to a 2-0 lead with wins of 25-17 and 25-15. Pierson did claw its way back by winning the next two sets, but fell in the decisive fifth set as Mattituck celebrated its sixth county championship in the last nine years.
The Tuckers (15-2) advanced in the New York State tournament and will play for a Long Island Class C title on Sunday at Farmingdale State College against either East Rockaway or Oyster Bay.
Pierson, meanwhile, saw its season end with a 13-3 record, all three of its losses coming against Mattituck. The Lady Whalers on Monday played without middle hitter Gylia Dryden, a sophomore who had a breakout season this year but missed the Suffolk final with a sprained ankle suffered in a scrimmage last week against Westhampton.
“She was a big part of our starting lineup,” Pierson head coach Donna Fischer said afterwards. “Our passes weren’t getting up to setter. We didn’t have our middle hitter and we had to switch some positions around so it threw everybody off a little bit today.”
With Dryden on the bench and Mattituck cruising early, Pierson’s game finally clicked in the third set. Passes were delivered perfectly to setter Sofia Mancino at the net and Celia Barranco, Sam Cox, Hannah Tuma and Aziza El began to control play at the net.
“They woke up,” Fischer said. “They had to get their energy up and it took a little while to warm up.”
Mattituck led 6-2 early in the third game when junior Caleigh Hochstedler served a series of winners to tie the score. The game was still tied at 15-15 when Mancino, who is only a freshman, served 10 straight points to win the set and put Pierson back in the match.
Game four was extremely tight and was tied at 21-21 late. Tuma and Barranco hit back-to-back kills and Casone scored a service ace to put Pierson up 24-21. Mattituck earned a side out and then pulled within a point at 24-23 when Mancino snuck a soft set over the net to win the game and push the match to a decisive fifth set.
“We battled at the end,” Fischer said.
Unfortunately for Pierson, Harkin, who had been quieted in the third and fourth sets, came out strong in the fifth and scored a series of big hits to put Mattituck up, 9-1, early. Harkin, who finished with 29 kills, and the Tuckers never looked back and closed out the match with a 25-12 victory.
Pierson will graduate three key frontcourt players in Tuma, El and Barranco, who have played huge roles in Pierson’s growth as a program.
“I’m going to miss them so much,” Fischer said. “Three big girls in the front row that I’m not going to have next year. They did a great job tonight.”