It’s been a roller coaster of a season for the Pierson-Bridgehampton girls volleyball team.
After starting the season with five consecutive losses, the Whalers quickly turned things around with three straight victories, including handing Mattituck its first loss of the season on March 27, followed by a 3-1 victory over second-place Center Moriches, at home, on March 30. But that upswing only lasted a few days. Pierson inexplicably suffered a 3-0 loss on Shelter Island on April 3, leading some to wonder which team was going to show up this past Thursday night when the Whalers hosted Greenport-Southold.
It was the dominating-side of the Whalers that showed up, defeating the Porters, 3-0, and improving their record to 5-5 in League VI. Pierson fell behind, 9-6, in the first set, but eventually turned things around and never looked back. The Whalers went on to win the first set, 25-18, and then second and third sets, 25-11, 25-17, respectively.
“Saturday I think we all got into our heads, and the main reason for what was because we had three days off,” Pierson senior tri-captain Gylia “Gigi” Dryden, who led the team with 10 kills and three blocks, explained after the victory. “So we were a little sloppy, but even so, we did try our best to win the game. Unfortunately it didn’t happen but we really showed ourselves tonight. We definitely started off with a strong energy, I can say that for sure. We motivated each other to keep going and, despite the mistakes, we just kept going every point.”
Pierson sophomore setter Grace Flanagan, who finished with 15 assists and seven service points including six aces, called last week’s victory “rewarding.”
“It’s more of a mental game that really changed our outcome today,” she said. “I felt like we were all more aggressive and we just trusted each other on the court, which just takes time and practicing as a team, and we really found that today, and the communication was great.”
Ashley Weatherwax, Pierson’s sophomore libero, led the team in digs and also had five aces from the service line. Ayanna El, a junior, had four aces.
Pierson head coach Donna Fischer lamented about the team’s ups-and-downs throughout the season, particularly against Shelter Island. Having three days off with no practice whatsoever, then to get on the bus at 7:30 a.m. to catch a ferry to Shelter Island, led to her players being “a little sleepy,” she said.
“They just didn’t show up at all,” she said. “I was quite disappointed. But you know what? Maybe we needed that, because I gave it to them the next practice and worked them to the core. And I told them, ‘You got to do whatever it takes and you got to get to every ball and believe in each other and communicate. I can’t do it for you.’ I believe in them. They have to believe in themselves.”
Fischer pondered that maybe what her team needs is to be constantly playing every day without any days off. Prior to getting those days off during spring break, Fischer had said her team was basically playing every day in what has been a shortened season due to COVID-19, with a practice one day, followed by a match.
That strategy was put the test this past weekend when Pierson played three matches in two days, making up rescheduled matches due to COVID protocols. Pierson will played a pair of matches Saturday — something that may have never happened before for any team — first playing at Babylon then traveling north to play at Port Jefferson.
Sunday matches are quite rare as well but the Whalers played this past Sunday at Greenport and they were scheduled to play at Southampton on Tuesday night. Results for the past weekend’s matches were not made available as of press time.
“I think this is what they like,” Fischer said. “I think the consistency and the constant moving and playing is good for them.”
All of this weekend’s matches had an effect on playoff seeding as well. If the Whalers finish the season with a even or winning record they will qualify outright for a spot in the Class C postseason. If they finish a win or two below .500, Fischer said it’s possible she could petition Section XI, the governing body of Suffolk County high school athletics, to get her team into the postseason since League VI is a mixed classification league with larger schools, such as Center Moriches.
As of Friday, Mattituck (10-1), Port Jeff (4-2), Pierson (5-5) and Babylon (4-5) were all in line to reach the postseason; Shelter Island (5-4) is a Class D school. The playoffs are currently slated to begin April 21. There are no Long Island or state championships this season due to COVID-19, only county championships.