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South Jersey Soccer:
Miracle Ends for South Jersey Barons in National Championship Game

Saturday, September 11, 1999

By Forrest Robleto
SJSports Staff Writer

The South Jersey Barons lost in the National Championship Game at Ludlow, Massachusetts 2-1 before a more than capacity crowd. After a very tight first half that ended with no score, the Western Massachusetts Pioneers opened the scoring in the second half with a goal by Paul Wright, who put away a rebound off a Barons defender. Rob Jachym got the second goal when he beat a Barons defender then slipped by Paul Royal who was coming out to challenge him. Matt Brooks slammed home a pass from Eric Chijoke to make it 2-1 with eight minutes left in the game, but it was too late. Despite some last minute heroics by Majik Agu, the Barons season ended 1-2 against the Western Mass Pioneers. But the game itself wasn't the real story.

The fans showed up very early. Lusitano Stadium has seating capacity for 3000. The Pioneers sold over 5000 tickets for this game. All the tickets were sold out by Wednesday, and for three days the phone had been ringing off the hook for more. Two hours before the game, every seat was taken and fans were staking out places to sit along the railings of the stands or around the fence. Eventually the fans would be five deep around the fence. Hopeful fans hung around outside in hopes that anyone might be selling an extra ticket - nobody was. The final paid attendance was 5,223. About 100 Barons Fans huddled together in one little section of the stands. The excitement was palpable and although the Barons' Fans were exuberant they were outnumbered more than fifty-to-one. It was a gorgeous night under the lights, about 70 degrees with a gentle breeze. Conditions couldn't have been better for the home team.

The Barons went into the game with a 19 and 4 overall record including 2 and 0 against these Western Massachusetts Pioneers. Their overall record in the league gave them a bye into the final four of this three-division league. In most leagues, that would have given them a home game for the finals but the vagaries of site selection in this league left them in Ludlow, Massachusetts. But the Barons, ever professional, played the best game that they could against a team that on this one Saturday played the better game. An obviously emotional Barons team crossed the field to acknowledge the Barons fans who had made the trip. The fans stood to applaud the team in a very touching moment.

The Barons had an excellent season. It's a shame they couldn't have won it all but it was a marvelous season nonetheless.

Photos by Forrest Robleto

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