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3rd Annual Colorado Border War – Denver vs. Boulder
John Stegner, Jr.
December 5, 2012
Taking the court for the traditional pre-battle photo with everyone still smiling, it was clear that the average age of the Denver team was about a solid decade younger. Yes, Denver had their traditional warhorses, but among them were a crop of fresh young faces new to this battle. Something was different this year...as the lineup went up on the board, the names carried more weight. Several of Denver's top players, who could not play in the previous two engagements, were front and center leading the charge. Denver had their eyes on the Sapporo Cup trophy and had clearly put together a team that had the potential to take it away from Boulder.
As players took the court for their first matches, it felt like every match was up for grabs. Players knew that only their best was going to get them a win on this evening. At first, it looked to be another solid first round for Boulder who quickly won two matches in straight sets, but the momentum would not carry for long. Denver stormed back with three 3rd-set tiebreaker wins in a row and a clean sweep at the number 2 spot. Two of Boulder's past MVP's were the last to leave the court after a tough loss. At the end of the first round, Denver had won 4 of the 6 matches. This was the first time in the history of the Border War that Boulder found itself playing from behind.
With the next round on the board, the match-ups looked too daunting for Boulder to pull off the comeback. The blows from both sides kept landing fast as the first two matches were straight set victories, one for each side. There was a slight swing in Boulder's favor as the first 3-set victory went Boulder's way, leaving only 3 matches left on court. The crowd now gathered to watch what looked to be a death blow by Denver as the Boulder team of Brian MacMillan and Pete Walters had lost their first set and were down 3-5 in the second. A straight set loss in this match would have made only a tie possible for Boulder. Some epic heckling by fellow Boulder teammates seemed to help MacMillan and Walters find a new gear. Somehow, they managed to fight off match points and win a tiebreaker, splitting sets and keeping Boulder's hope alive. The other remaining two matches began to look like they would cancel each other out and thus, the focus returned to the now critical and deciding 3rd set where once again MacMillan and Walters found themselves down 3-5 against their formidable opponents. Their miraculous comeback to win the 3rd set in yet another tiebreaker was the deciding point. Boulder had won the night. As the Denver players examined the 15-14 result in disbelief, their captain summed it up best by simply saying, "No way."
At the end of the night, each team had won six matches, but Boulder had squeaked out a one set margin to claim the victory. The decision came around 9:30 p.m., but the night was still young and the Sapporo beer was superbly refreshing. Well past midnight, the players’ ongoing analysis of the outcome was becoming less intelligible by the moment. Finally, ranks were broken and a vow to fight again next year was made.
Some quick recognition for notable performances on both sides are in order: Matt Assini was Denver’s only straight set winner on the evening with his partners. Riley Meyers and Michael Slutzky also put in strong showings for Denver, only dropping one set, going 4-1. On the Boulder team, Andy Smith and John Stegner both had straight set victory records with their partners. Steve Filmer, Tom Houlihan and Pete Walters had 4-1 records on the evening.
Players from Left to Right:
Boulder: Andy Smith, John Fasullo, John Stegner, Pete Chandler, Steve Filmer, Tom Houlihan, Brock Borman, Curt Corrigan, Brian MacMillan, Bob Ziegenhagen, Pete Walters, Jim Bray
Denver: Andrew Green, Scott Ripley, Riley Meyers, Ian Hintz, Chuck Roosevelt, Jay Schwab, Michael Slutzky, Dan Washburne, Matt Assini, Bob Brown, Tom Hertzberg, Nick Morris, Cary Hodges