``I just wish we had a little better showing,'' West Deptford first-year coach Aaron Burr said. ``The score makes it look like a fluke. They won the tough points and it just kind of steamrolled. We've still had a good season though.''
Three of the matches went to three sets and another match had a set with a tiebreaker. Pennsville had won a scrimmage at the beginning of the season, 3-2.
Still, this season's effort is nothing but astounding. This was a team that had eight wins total in 1996 and 1997. Half of the team's first 14 matches this spring were pushed to the limit, but the Eagles found ways to win.
``It's been a bit of a turnaround,'' said Burr, who was an assistant the previous two years. ``My kids aren't star tennis players. They just play hard and make the shots. If you watch them play, they're not the most technically sound players, but they just try. I think they won on guts a little more this year maybe then in years past. They're athletic and they just don't want to quit.
``The kids came out with some enthusiasm this year. They worked hard and did what I asked them to do. I guess once you start winning, you breed confidence. They started to get confidence in their shots where maybe they didn't have confidence before.''
Senior Brian Maschke is the team's acknowledged leader. But after him, the competition is pretty even. No. 3 singles Rich Miller captured his first 14 matches of the season and is 15-2 through Thursday.
The second doubles team of Bennie Lewandowski and Chris Jordan has posted a 12-4 record this season.
``They can all play with each other,'' Burr said. ``We're fairly deep. So, if we lose at one of the singles, we're able to pick up a win somewhere else. The depth has really been an improvement.''
Maschke has been the team's No. 1 singles player for the last three years.
``He's almost like an assistant coach for me,'' Burr said. ``He's always helping out with the drills, helping out with the little things. The intangible things . . . You can't really measure what he means to me and the team. He's going to be tough to replace next year, just because of the leadership qualities.''
Playoff matchups. South Jersey titles will be on the line Tuesday. Here's a quick preview of the matchups, which will take place at neutral sites to be determined:
Group 4. Cherry Hill East, top-ranked in The Inquirer's South Jersey Top 10, will take on No. 3 Lenape for the third time this season. The Cougars, who won the title last year, have posted impressive triumphs in the previous meetings and there's no reason to think that won't happen again. Lenape improved in its second outing against East but will need to step it up again to have a chance.
Group 3. Cherry Hill West and Egg Harbor Township, a pair of 3-2 winners in the semifinals, face each other for the title. West is led by the Bigornia brothers, Armand and Erik, who hold down the top two singles positions. The Eagles' No. 1 player, Bobby Gupta, dropped just one game in the semifinals and was second in the recent Cape-Atlantic League tournament.
Group 2. Schalick will be the sacrificial lamb to face second-ranked Moorestown, which is shooting for its 22d consecutive group championship. The Quakers dropped just nine games in their semifinal triumph against Pennsville. Schalick was all out to oust a tough Northern Burlington team, 3-2, in the semis.
Group 1. Haddonfield is the only local team that has to play someone out of the immediate area. The Bulldogs will face Point Pleasant Beach, which defeated Haddon Township, 4-1. Haddonfield hasn't been challenged yet in the playoffs; all five wins against Florence were by straight sets.
Parochial A. Monsignor Donovan takes on Red Bank Catholic, which defeated Holy Cross, 3-2, Thursday.
Parochial B. Moorestown Friends posted an impressive 5-0 win over St. Augustine in the semifinals Thursday and is slated against top-seeded Wildwood Catholic, which won its first eight matches this season.
The winners of each group advance to the NJSIAA state playoffs, which will be held Thursday at Mercer County Park. State semis in Groups 3 and 4 begin at 9 a.m.; the championships will be at 1 p.m. In Groups 1 and 2, semis start at 11 a.m. and the championships are slated for 3 p.m.
The Parochial finals take place at 1 p.m.
The unknown. Haddonfield coach Jeff Holman has a busy weekend schedule. Yesterday, he was at Vineland for the start of the South Jersey Interscholastic Tournament, which runs through Memorial Day weekend. Holman is one of the organizers of the event.
Over the weekend, he'll also be making phone calls and looking at various papers for results to get a feel for his opponent in the South Jersey Group 1 championship Tuesday, Point Pleasant Beach.
For the last three seasons, Haddonfield has been in Group 2 and had to face perennial champ Moorestown along the way. So, it's been a while since the Bulldogs have even thought about the possibility of playing Point Pleasant Beach.
``All we can do is look at the different positions and make a comparison,'' Holman said. ``We don't have any mutual opponents.''
Despite the lack of knowledge, Holman is happy to be in Group 1.
``We've taken our knocks against Moorestown the past couple years,'' Holman said. ``We're happy to be where we are.''
Tough week. When Washington Township emerged with a hard-fought 3-2 triumph over Vineland in the South Jersey Group 4 quarterfinals Wednesday, it marked a milestone for the Minutemen.
Just a year ago, a horrendous start left Township out of the playoffs. This season, the Minutemen have gradually climbed to a perch among the top five teams in South Jersey while easily qualifying for the playoffs.
Unfortunately, Township didn't have much time to celebrate its berth in the semifinals. Just 24 hours later, the Minutemen dropped a 4-1 decision to Lenape in the semis. It marked the second straight week that the Indians had defeated Township.