The match started off downright ugly. It was sometimes hard to watch with service errors and all sorts of other mistakes by both teams. Then things took a welcomed turn to mildly interesting.
From there, however, it unexpectedly made a huge leap to absolutely captivating.
After Bishop McGann-Mercy dropped the first two sets to Pierson/Bridgehampton in Wednesday night’s Suffolk County Class C girls volleyball semifinal, it looked as if Pierson was in for an easy three-setter.
Fourth-seeded Mercy pulled itself together and took the next two sets before ultimately falling in five to the top-seeded League VII champions, 25-16, 25-11, 20-25, 16-25, 25-19, at Pierson High School. Pierson will face either Port Jefferson or Stony Brook in the county final Monday night at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood.
In the first two sets, Mercy (5-7) looked out of sorts and held a lead only once. The Monarchs, in the playoffs for only the second time in their history, according to coach Jeff Trelewicz, then staged a surprising revival, leading by as many nine points in the third set. By the fourth set, Mercy looked like a completely different team, oozing with confidence while Pierson (10-2) seemed lost.
But the home fans had something to cheer about again when Pierson shot out to a 6-2 lead in the decisive fifth set. The Whalers were in front, 19-10, before Mercy mounted an impressive comeback attempt. No lead was safe in this match.
Behind Mia Behrens’ serving, the Monarchs rallied. They pulled to within one point at 19-18 on one of Mary Grace Hartmann’s nine kills. But that was as close as Mercy got. Mackenzie Benbenek drove a powerful ace off a Mercy arm and then met a cross-court pass from Maizy Guyer (15 assists) with a well-struck smash that found the floor on match point. It was her 10th kill of the match.
Both teams were afflicted by serving woes. Mercy committed 19 service errors and Pierson had 17. But Pierson tallied 22 service aces, including nine from Nia Dawson.
Mercy’s senior setter, Behrens, had 17 assists and went 20-for-21 serving for four aces in her final high school match.
Photo caption: Bishop McGann-Mercy’s Kathleen DeWitt tries to hit the ball past a block attempt by Pierson/Bridgehampton’s Maizy Guyer. (Credit: Garret Meade)