By Gavin Menu
As May Evjen tells it, it was all about the Halloween candy.
Jacked up on sugar, school spirit and a desire to reverse the trend of losing to the top two Class D schools in Suffolk County this year, the Lady Whalers on Friday went on the road and beat Stony Brook in straight sets (25-20, 26-24, 25-23) to advance to the Suffolk County final against Shelter Island on Monday.
“The last game some girls fell asleep on the bus,” Evjen said about the team’s last meeting against Stony Brook, which occurred exactly one week prior to Friday night’s playoff opener. “This bus ride, we ate candy, we were all awake. Our mind set was focused on every game we played.”
Monday’s county final will be played at Patchogue-Medford High School at 6 p.m., with the winner advancing directly to a State Regional Semifinal at James O’Neill High School up the Hudson Valley in Fort Montgomery, New York on Wednesday, November 6 at 4 p.m.
The ultimate goal, of course, is reaching the New York State Championships at the Glens Falls Civic Center on the weekend of November 16 and 17.
“As seniors we want to keep going, “Evjen said. “Everyone’s mindset was this game—game by game, point by point.”
Evjen, the team’s primary setter, was masterful in her passing on Friday while Shannon Keane and Tatyana Dawson controlled things at the net, finishing with a combined 18 kills.
Libero Morgan Vaughn finished with 25 digs and the entire team performed well at times from the service line. Head coach Donna Fischer said that after facing Stony Brook twice already this year, the Lady Whalers were simply more prepared on Friday.
“We practiced to how they play,” Fischer said. “And I think a big part of it was our energy.”
After winning the first set somewhat easily, Pierson led for the majority of the second set as well until Stony Brook charged back late to tie the score at 24 apiece. Pierson earned the next point on a side-out and senior Bridget Canavan served out the final point to put the Lady Whalers up two sets to none.
Stony Brook took a 5-0 lead in the third set until a side-out and two service winners by Lily Kunzeman put Pierson on the board. Later in the set, Sydney Mitchell held court with nine straight service points to put the Lady Whalers in front, and Kunzeman served out the final point of the third set and the celebration was on.
“If we play like we did today, we were up, we blocked, we have it,” Keane said when asked if her team can go on to beat Shelter Island, which lost only one match all year. “We just have to keep on trying, we can’t give up.”