By Gavin Menu
The Pierson/Bridgehampton girls volleyball team, which was already in the midst of an historic season after winning the program’s first-ever league championship with a 9-1 record, had its dreams of a county title dashed Monday at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood.
As they did in a Class C semifinal win over Mercy on November 2, the top-seeded Lady Whalers won the first two games against third-seeded Stony Brook in Monday’s final in somewhat convincing fashion. As they also did against Mercy, Pierson lost the following two games with their floor chemistry and normally-strong service game coming apart under the pressure of sweeping shifts in momentum.
The Lady Whalers recovered to win the decisive fifth game against Mercy, but had no such luck against Stony Brook on Monday. Sag Harbor native Liz Robbins, who played Libero for Pierson last year as an eighth-grader before enrolling at Stony Brook, was the best player on the floor Monday, calming and controlling her team’s attack all night long. The Bears were inspired by a raucous crowd of their fellow students, and recovered from losing the first two games, 26-24 and 25-19, to charge back and take games three and four, 25-17 and 25-21.
Game five was an absolute nail-biter, with Stony Brook emerging with a 27-25 victory to claim the county championship.
“It was hard playing against my old team, but I love it,” said Robbins as she was mobbed by friends and family. “It was definitely a tough game but I’m happy to be on Stony Brook.”
The Lady Bears, who won their program’s first-ever county championship, advanced to the Long Island Class final as a result of the win and will face either Carle Place or East Rockaway on Saturday at SUNY Old Westbury.
The Lady Whalers, meanwhile, left the cavernous gym in Brentwood feeling dejected after letting another major milestone slip away. There was still cause for positive reflection, if not celebration, as the team and head coach Donna Fischer said goodbye to seniors Maizy Guyer, Mackenzie Benbenek and Bridgehampton’s Nia Dawson, who combined to take the program to new heights.
“They’re great and I’ll be very sad to see them graduate and leave us,” Fischer said afterwards while also reflecting on the difficult loss. “When they lose the third game, it just rocks their game. It’s intimidating walking into this facility and I only have two girls who have even seen this place before. It’s a tough loss.”
Pierson will return a core of strong players including regular starters Leigh Hatfied, Sophie Borzilleri and Samantha Cox, who is only a freshman. With Pierson trailing 19-11 in the fifth game, Cox stepped to the service line and won seven straight points to put her team back in the match. Borzilleri served three straight points to put Pierson up 22-20, but Stony Brook came back to tie it up and had two separate opportunities to win the match. Robbins served the final point for Stony Brook to win the championship for the Lady Bears.