After missing the previous two games due to a concussion, the Pierson girls volleyball team wasn’t sure what to expect from premier outside hitter Gylian Dryden in her return on Saturday night.
But from the outset it became clear that Dryden was prepared to deliver a memorable championship performance.
“I really didn’t want to disappoint the team because I wasn’t sure where I was at physically,” said Dryden, who had 17 kills and three aces to lift Pierson over Oyster Bay, 16-25, 25-15, 25-11, 25-20, in the Class C Long Island Championship at Hauppauge. “I’m just happy to win.”
Pierson earned its second Long Island championship over the last three seasons and will advance to the New York State tournament semifinals on Nov. 23 at Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls.
Dryden said her coach, Donna Fischer, encouraged her throughout the match and kept her spirits up to remain aggressive.
“Every moment I came out she told me ‘You got this,’” Dryden said. ‘Once you believe in yourself you can do it.’ And I was able to push through it.”
With the score tied at 20 in the fourth set, Pierson surged toward the Long Island crown with five straight points. Dryden picked up back-to-back kills to put the Whalers within a point of the victory before Pierson recorded the championship-clincher.
“She’s a powerhouse,” Fischer said of Dryden. “She is bigger and stronger than anybody we’ve seen. And when she’s on fire you cannot stop her.”
Dryden also had two consecutive aces in the third set to widen the Pierson lead to 20-9. The Whalers cruised from there, clinching the game, 25-11, as they took a 2-1 match lead.
After dropping the first set, the Whalers came up with a strong response in the second set, as they established a lead early on and maintained it throughout. Ahead 18-14, Pierson tallied seven of the final eight points to notch a 25-15 win to tie the match at one set apiece.
Sam Cox also put together a strong performance for Pierson with 20 kills.
“I’m super proud of my team,” Cox said. “This was our goal from Day One. Everything we’ve worked for was toward this.”