Burlington County YMCA Finals:
By Mark Blais
Moorestown Friends School hosted the finals for the Thursday Night Fall League Championship match on November 20, 1997. Hard Rock's strong net play helped them beat Menage a Champs in a surprising 3 game sweep in this best of 5 match. This season's finale tried the endurance of all the athletes. Both the semi-finals and finals matches were completed in the same night. On its victory tour, Hard Rock outperformed On A Mission during the semi-finals earlier in the evening, while Menage a Champs defeated The Jug to reach the finals.
In the first game, both teams started out strong by displaying crisp offensive plays and good defensive coverage. Roger Weaver had 9 kills and 3 blocks for Hard Rock while Ron Milke led Menage a Champs offense with 7 kills and a block. Both teams played well as the few fans remaining in the mostly empty gymnasium saw the teams battle to a 12-12 tie. Hard Rock captured the next 3 points intermixed with several side outs to take the first game victory 15-12.
Game 2 saw Hard Rock's steady big hitting and blocking methodically drive them to victory. Hard Rock jumped out to an 11-3 lead and took the upper hand. Menage a Champs fought back to within 3 points at 12-9, before John Stevens' two key blocks down the stretch gave Hard Rock a 15-9 win.
In a must win scenario, Menage a Champs resuscitated their offensive attack in Game 3 as they regrouped from the first two games. The back and forth beginning provided the competitive excitement expected in this series when Mark McGonigle's kill gave Menage a Champs a 5-4 advantage. Menage's team blocking, John Girard's 7 kills and 6 individual blocks, propelled them to a solid 12-7 lead. Hard Rock showed their mental toughness as they chipped away at the lead when John Stevens' ace serve brought them to within one point at 12-11. Refusing what looked like an apparent Menage a Champs' victory only minutes earlier, Hard Rock would not quit. That's when the final tug of war began.
Dave Essex's two consecutive kills gave his team their first lead of the game at 14-13 after several hard-fought side outs. Hard Rock served their first match point and teetering on defeat, Menage a Champs sided out. They then served the equalizer that tied the game at 14-14. Following a side out, a net call on Menage a Champs allowed Hard Rock to serve for the championship at 15-14. Hard Rock's celebration began following an unforced error.
Statistically, Menage a Champs played their best in this third game. In fact, Menage a Champs out blocked Hard Rock by 13-7. Bob Campanella had 6 digs in the game which helped to keep Menage a Champs competitive. Hard Rock's Dave Essex played a strong offensive game with 8 kills and contributed 3 blocks on the defensive end. Consistency was the name of the game for Roger Weaver as he led Hard Rock in kills in each of the three games. Hard Rock's setters Cindy Britton and Donna Hadsall definitely were the key factors in providing the hitters with kills.
The league's talent has steadily improved each season, which was evidenced by this competitive and exciting final match. See you at Moorestown Friends School in January to find out which teams will challenge Hard Rock for the winter session's championship.