On Monday afternoon, a moment 28 years in the making occurred in front of an electric crowd in Swanson Gymnasium: the volleyball team won its first League Championship. In a showdown of the top two teams in League VIII, the Bears swept Pierson to give the Whalers their second loss with one game to play, clinching the outright title for the Brook.
The Bears fell behind early in game one, 2-3, before grabbing a 5-4 lead they would not relinquish. A key early point came after a minute long rally that energized the crowd and gave the Bears a 7-5 advantage. A Bekah Detwiler kill pushed the lead to 13-7, but the Whalers closed to within 21-18 before a Bri Kilkenny ace created a bit more separation. Sam Petersen’s serve clipped the net before falling for an ace to give the Bears a 24-19 edge on their way to a 25-19 set one win.
The Bears again fell behind early in set two, 2-6, before surging past Pierson for a dominant win. Hannah Detwiler fired two missiles at the Whaler defense to bring the Bears within 3-6 and then knot the score at 6-6. The Brook grabbed a 7-6 lead on the next point and did not look back. A Danielle Graves ace extended the lead to 12-7, then another long rally brought the crowd to its feet as the Bears pushed their edge to 16-9. A Liz Robbins kill and a Lois Ezi rocket put the Bears ahead 19-11 and sent a charge through the Swanson faithful. Three straight points allowed the Whalers to close within 19-14, but Leslie Kang scored on a key return winner to stem the tide. She then notched three straight aces to put the Brook up 24-14 before an Ezi kill ended the set at 25-14.
The Bears controlled set three early on, racing out to a 5-1 lead and maintaining a 20-15 edge late, but Pierson did not go quietly. The Whalers ran off five straight points to knot the game at 20-20, prompting a timeout from coach Stan Winston. A Hannah Detwiler kill righted the ship to put the Bears back up 21-20, but Pierson surged ahead with four straight points to grab their first lead since 6-5 in set two and move within a point of forcing a fourth frame.
The Bears responded with the same mettle they summoned to overcome an 0-2 deficit to Pierson in last year’s scintillating County Final. Hannah Detwiler found deck on a touch shot as the Bears closed within 22-24. Then Pierson failed to return a Danielle Graves serve before Graves aced them on the next point to knot the game at 24-24. Bekah Detwiler then hammered a ball that the Pierson libero could not handle to move the Bears within a point of their first League title. With match point within reach the crowd rose to its feet as a long rally ensued that saw the ball cross the net 11 times before Bekah Detwiler’s kill found hardwood, sending a pulsing Blue Fan Group spilling onto the floor to celebrate the historic win.
Bekah Detwiler finished with 5 kills, Ezi record 4 kills and 4 blocks, and Hannah Detwiler notched 4 kills and 2 blocks. Kang led the way on serve with 4 aces.
The Bears wrap up the regular season on Friday at Shelter Island with a chance to go undefeated in league play. They then look ahead to the playoffs which are scheduled to begin on November 1.
League VIII Standings