High School Volleyball:
Saturday, September 19, 1998
By Forrest Robleto
An exhausted group of girls from Hackensack played as much volleyball as the tournament rules allowed to finally overcome a weary team from Eastern. They finished without their best player and one of only three seniors, Gwen Scenal who sprained her ankle in the third game of pool play. Suzanne Vacek stepped up and carried the Comets to a very exciting win.
Ten teams from all over the state started out in two groups (white and blue) of five. Eighty volleyball games later there were six teams left. Cherry Hill East, Memorial, and Fair Lawn in the blue division and Hackensack, Eastern, and Mount Saint Dominick in the white.
The second team in each division then played the third from the other division for the quarterfinals. Eastern (second place white) played Fair Lawn (third place blue) and won 15-11. Memorial (second place blue) met Mount Saint Dominick (third place white) and with an inspired performance by their 5'10" Senior Kerry Rissetto Mount Saint Dominick moved on with a score of 15-9. The teams were tied at 9-9 when Mount Saint Dominick scored six unanswered points.
With Hackensack's star player injured what appeared to be the real finals matched Tom Armour's Vikings against Dave Gurst's Cougars in semifinal action. Armour is the tournament director and head coach for Eastern. Eastern took a three to nothing lead and although Cherry Hill got within two points at 16-14, Eastern never really looked back.
In the other semifinals Frank Benato's Hackensack fell behind early to Anthony Rosania's Mount Saint Dominick and the outstanding play of Kerry Rissetto but Suzanne Vacek the other tournament standout was not to be denied and after trailing 12-9 Suzanne took the Comets through 12 straight points to beat the Lions 21-12. Rosania called Rissetto, "probably the most underrated player in the state." Were it not for Suzanne Vacek, Rissetto might have been the best player in the tournament.
The finals then saw the two top teams from the white division Hackensack and Eastern. The teams had split in pool play without Hackensack's Gwen Scenal who sprained her ankle in a game against Cherry Hill West. They would play the best of three games with the first two games capped at 17 points and the last, if necessary, with no cap and a requirement to win by two.
Early in the first game Lilah Ormand denied a beautiful shot by Suzanne Vacek. The teams played even to 4-4 then traded the lead several times to 7-7 then Eastern started to connect on every play and won easily 15-9. It looked like a third game would be unnecessary but it wasn't over yet.
In the second game Vacek led the Comets to a 11-3 lead. But strong play by Jessica Will, Lilah Ormand and Jamie Caswell brought Eastern back to 11-10. An incredibly long point brought Hackensack to 12-10 but the succeeding point for Hackensack was called back as they had rotated after the long point. Hackensack made it to 13-10 again and went on to win the second game 15-12, forcing a third game.
The long day of games was beginning to show on both teams. In the final game both teams were hitting serves into the net and not jumping as high. Vacek hit several balls directly into the net but still hit a good number of winners and Hackensack found themselves up 9-3. Eastern clawed their way back to 13-13. Each team served the ball directly into the net. At one point Jessica Will made an incredible diving save on a perfectly placed shot by Vacek. Play was halted briefly as Lindsay Cohen was apparently injured but she was able to remain in the game. The teams played dead even to 15-15, then with Hackensack serving a fan from Eastern loudly called the serve long the Eastern girls let it go by to land for a Hackensack point 16-15. Lauren Laboy made a perfect set for Suzanne Vacek who drilled the ball into the floor for the win 17-15.
Both teams were obviously very tired. Coach Tom Armour, asked if fatigue played a part in Eastern's loss, replied, "I don't know, they [Hackensack] played the same number of games that we did. And they had that one girl. They set everything for that one girl, and she kept hitting the ball." That one girl was Suzanne Vacek.
Photos by Forrest Robleto
©1998 South Jersey Sports Online
A Product of WOW Internet Solutions