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High School Volleyball:
1st Annual Frank McAleer Memorial Tournament Held at Eastern

Saturday, November 4, 2000

By John Daglian
SJSports Staff Writer

On Saturday November 4th, Eastern High School in Voorhees was the place to be for great Volleyball action. Seven teams from as far north as Clifton and as far south as Washington Township participated in the first annual Frank McAleer Memorial Volleyball tournament. The teams included Clifton, Cherry Hill East, Hunterdon Central, Bridgewater, Washington Township, East Brunswick and Eastern. Eastern split into two squads for the event in order to provide two even pools.

All of these schools will be participating in Group IV State tournament. First round play in this tournament began Friday night. In Fact, Cherry Hill East earned the #1 seed for the State tournament. The other schools were seeded as follows: Eastern #4, Hunterdon Central #9, Bridgewater #11, East Brunswick #12, Clifton #18 and Washington Township #22. Eastern has already advanced to round 2 with a win on Friday night. The other schools will play their matches on Tuesday November 7. However, none of that mattered on Saturday, as a day long tournament is completely different from one that takes two weeks to complete.

Play began at 8:30 AM as the teams were split into two pools of four teams. One pool included Eastern A, Eastern B, Bridgewater and East Brunswick. The other pool had Cherry Hill East, Washington Township, Hunterdon Central and Clifton. Ironically, this was also an SAT testing day. Several teams were affected as key players understood their priorities and were taking the college placement test. The matches during pool play consisted of two games to 15 points with a 45 minute time limit. As expected most matches were ended on the time limit. The three teams with the best record would advance to the playoffs.

Bridgewater swept through the first pool going 6 - 0 to earn an automatic semi-final berth. Eastern A finished second at 4 - 2 and East Brunswick captured the final spot at 2 - 4. The other pool was a bit more interesting as the three top teams all split with each other during round robin play. Cherry Hill East, Hunterdon Central and Washington Township all finished pool play at 4 - 2. The second tie breaker of point differential was able to place the three teams with Cherry Hill East earning the top spot and a place in the other semi-final. Hunterdon Central took the second spot and Washington Township third place.

The first quarterfinal featured Eastern A against Washington Township. Since both of these teams play in the Olympic Conference they were quite familiar with each other. The quarterfinal was a single game to 15 points with a 30 minute time limit. As during conference play, Eastern's tough serving and shot placement was too much for the tenacious of Washington Township and Eastern advanced to the Semi's with a 15 - 3 win.

The second quarterfinal also featured teams from the same conference. This time it was the Central Jersey Volleyball Conference as Hunterdon Central took on East Brunswick. These teams again had met twice during league play with each team winning on their home court. The match featured several long volleys as both teams played incredible defense. Several saves were made from 15 to 20 feet off the court and both teams provided the fans with spectacular diving digs to keep points alive. When all was said and done Hunterdon Central took the game 15 - 7 and advanced to the semi-finals.

Ironically, each semi-final would pit conference opponents against each other. The first Semi Final featured Olympic Conference co-champions Cherry Hill East and Eastern. The second match featured Bridgewater and Central Conference Tournament runner up Hunterdon Central. The semi-final would be a single game to 21 points with no time limit and the teams would switch sides when one team reached 11 points.

The first match between Eastern and Cherry Hill was a replica of their meetings from the early season tournament and the two regular season matches. The game went back and forth with neither team able to get more than a 2 point lead. After a tie at 8, Eastern was able to run off 3 consecutive points to gain the momentum and the side switch at 11 - 8. At this point Eastern was able to maintain control holding leads of 12 - 10, 13 - 11, and finally extending the lead to 16 - 12. Cherry Hill was able to cut the lead in half at 19 - 17, but ran out of steam and Eastern advanced to the finals with a 21 - 17 victory. The game proved that both of these teams deserved their share of the Olympic Conference title. Neither team was dominant, but on this day Eastern was the better team.

The second match featured Central Conference opponents Bridgewater and Hunterdon Central. These teams had also split their two regular season meetings. However, Hunterdon had eliminated Bridgewater from the Central Conference tournament in a marathon 3 game 2 hour match. Perhaps revenge was on the Bridgewater's minds as they dominated this game from start to finish. They were able to overpower Hunterdon with a middle attack that would not be stopped jumping out to leads of 8 - 3 and 11 - 5. They got their revenge and moved onto the finals with a convincing 21 - 11 victory.

Thus the finals were set: The host team Eastern versus Bridgewater. The teams had met in pool play with Bridgewater winning two close games. The finals would be another single game to 21 with a side switch at 11 points.

If Eastern was going to win this game, they would have to find a way to stop the tournament's best player: Bridgewater's Freshman Hitter - Talita Silva. Bridgewater's game plan was no secret, get Talita the ball as much as possible. Setter Aleyna Redvanly was very good at that job throughout the day as Talita would lead every match in kills. Just as impressive was the fact that she also either led or was one of the leaders in blocks for each of her team's matches. Eastern's job didn't get much easier when Talita moved to the back row, as senior middle hitter Melba Wilson was entrusted with and delivered the needed offense throughout the day.

Eastern's setters Allison Lorenzo and Shannon Jones would lead a balanced attack. They would distribute the ball to every other player on the court. Thus, no hitter would stand out but the team would prosper. However, for them to contend in the match middle hitters/blockers Natalie DiFeliciantonio and Lauren Levy would need to have an excellent game.

The game began at 3:30 PM and lasted nearly an hour. Eastern jumped out to a quick 5 - 2 lead by mixing up off speed shots, tips, dinks and spikes. The strategy kept Bridgewater on the defensive as they were unable to mount any offense. However, Bridgewater adjusted quickly as Megan Borbely, Sylvana Taodeschini and Rajani Bhakta began to get Aleyna the ball. Aleyna then got the ball to Talita and Melba who propelled Bridgewater to a 9 - 6 lead. Eastern fought back with kills from Natalie and Lauren, but Bridgewater held on and got the side switch at 11 - 10.

Eastern again used whatever shot was available to keep the Bridgewater attack off balance. Kristen Bertucci got a couple of service winners and suddenly Eastern was ahead 13 - 11. The momentum had swung and Caitlin Cielo tried to keep it that way with hard driven spikes down the line. Outside hitters Julie Conover and Jennifer Snyder then found the open court with nicely placed dumps. Meanwhile the Eastern block was forcing the Bridgwater players to dink or dump instead of attack enabling Eastern to surge ahead to championship point at 20 - 12.

However, this one would not be easy as once again Bridgewater adjusted and got their offense going closing the game to 20 -17. That would be as close as they could get as Eastern closed out the championship 21 - 17 by forcing a hitting error from Bridgewater.

Congratulations to Eastern on the tournament win! Furthermore, the best of luck to all these teams in the upcoming state tournament.

Photos by Art Redd

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