By Gavin Menu
Pierson High School is considering an eighth varsity sports team next fall with the girls tennis program, which posted a 10-2 record at junior varsity this year, possibly moving up to compete at the varsity level.
Five players who were part of a wildly successful East Hampton varsity team this fall—Isabel Peters, Lily Kot, Cece Combemale, Evan Johnson and Sabrina Re—would, presumably, return to play for the Pierson-Bridgehampton Lady Whalers in Mashashimuet Park in 2014.
“We’re going to look forward and review the possibilities,” said Todd Gulluscio, Pierson’s athletic director. “We have to take some time to review this past season, the plan for next year and the budget.”
The Lady Bonackers closed out their season with a 7-0 loss to top-ranked and undefeated Half Hollow Hills East in the quarterfinals of the Suffolk County (Section XI) Team Tournament on Friday. Finishing in “The Big Four” was a great accomplishment, according to head coach Michelle Kennedy, who called 2013 “a great season for many reason.”
East Hampton finished 7-3 and in second place in League VII this season behind undefeated William Floyd, which on Saturday lost in the Suffolk final to Hills East. The Lady Bonackers also won two matches in the Suffolk Tournament, beating Smithtown West, 5-0, in a rain-shortened first-round match before going on to knock off Ross, 5-2, on October 24.
“I have such a great group of well-rounded girls who all got along and are very supportive of each other,” Kennedy said. “We are one of the top two strongest leagues in the county, so finishing number two in the league felt like quite an accomplishment.”
The Lady Bonackers will graduate seven seniors in Carly Grossman, Maggie Pizzo, Julia Talasko, Cosima Schelfhout, Dannie Dunphy, Gillian Neubert and Melanie Schwagerl and will most likely be in re-building mode next season.
Frank Atkinson-Barnes, who coaches the Pierson junior varsity team, said the returning players from Pierson and Bridgehampton combined could easily compete at the varsity level next season.
“I think we have a varsity for the next three years, pretty solid,” Atkinson-Barnes said. “And if we’re not playing for the league title, we’ll definitely be competitive and in the middle of the pack.”
East Hampton, Pierson and the Ross School have had a revolving door kind of relationship with each other in terms of shared athletic programs. The top player for East Hampton one year has played at Ross and vice versa. And now five Pierson players could potentially have to face their former coach and teammates as Lady Whalers next year.
“It is an interesting situation with our players switching teams over the years,” said Kennedy, who will look to re-build next year’s team with a young crop of middle school girls coming into high school. “Cece, for example, used to play with Ross. Carly Grossman also had to face her former teammate in our most recent Ross match, which was definitely not easy. I wish the girls the best of luck no matter where they land from year to year.”
At Pierson, there were 14 girls on JV this season and 13 in middle school so the program is well-stocked, according to Atkinson-Barnes, who said the program relies heavily on players coming over from Bridgehampton as well.
One of the program’s top priorities, according to Atkinson-Barnes, will be building an off-season program that runs year-round, something he would like to partner with East Hampton on. He said tennis has also become a bigger part of the physical education program in the school district, which has helped feed into a growing interscholastic program.
“If they play in gym class at the middle school and elementary levels, we should be able to get a few kids out of that as well,” Atkinson-Barnes said.