A packed house, emotional stage and 1 title up for grabs. It was a David vs. Goliath match-up. For all the marbles, we began the 2012 state championship. It was about 6:15 when the sea of Milford fans began to flow into Babson College for an intense evening. Soon after that, there was not a seat in the house.
Milford: A team with a cause. Milford boys volleyball has only one state championship appearance from back in 1999, but a big line-up and a set of devoted players changed that. After being together as a complete team for 3 seasons, the Milford team was set and ready to roll this year. They came out hot from the gate and kept it going all year long as they only lost 4 sets in the entire regular season. Coming in off a 3-0 victory over the south champions from Newton North, Milford looked as though they were untouchable. Hard hitters, a solid back row, a big block and a cause carried Milford. Milford had so much to gain by being in this game, out of respect to pride, prestige and glory, but when talking to the Milford team, you would not believe what they had to say. These gentlemen from Milford declared their cause all over their backs throughout the year with three letters; ALS. Father of co-captain Daniel Seaver was diagnosed with this dreadful disease back in Seaver's junior year. As a huge supporter of the Milford team, Paul "Wally" Seaver was basically part of the team. He sat front row in a lawn chair just off the corner of the court and was given a shirt to say "Milford Volleyball Superfan" to match that of his son's "Milford Volleyball" warm-up, as Dan was about to play the biggest game of his life. With "Wally" across Seaver's back, and the in hearts of every player, coach and fan in the crowd, Milford took the court.
Cambridge: The underdog. Strolling into the Babson gym came in the Falcons of Cambridge. With a series of 4 players all over 6'4", they made teams worry throughout the season. Starting off on a roll with nine straight wins, two over big teams of Lincoln-Sudbury and Saint John's Prep, Cambridge was turning heads up North, but just as they were rolling, a storm hit. Back-to-back-to-back losses for the falcons made it seem as though they were all but done. However, with a few easier teams in their next games, they got right back on track and were just too hot for teams the rest of the way, as all of a sudden they hit the district semi-finals against #1 Haverhill. In a heavy battle, Cambridge squeaked out the 3-2 win and moved on to face the Cinderella team of Methuen. A little inconsistency from Cambridge kept it close, but a 3-1 win followed by a 3-0 win over Western Mass champ Chicopee Comp pushed them in to face their most difficult match-up of the year.
The stage was set, fans were loud and the game was underway.
Cambridge came out hot and Milford seemed like they were either scared or nervous. Big hit after big hit followed by big block after big block, you could not ask for a better game, the only problem for Milford fans was that it came mostly from the Cambridge side. Cambridge seemed to roll easily through the first two game and Robbie Buderi and Jalen Penrose both were on a different level with their offensive games. Winning the first two games had made hundreds of Milford fans silent as the falcon's faithful were the only thing you could hear. The sounds of cheers and excitement came as Cambridge met up in between sets. From the other side all you heard was a stack of cups fall from the water cooler as a little bit of emotion broke loose.
Milford huddled up as they looked at what could be the last 25 points they'd ever play together. A loud yell, a pump-up gesture from Seaver and a high five from MacMannis to Wasik and Milford was ready for war. With Cambridge's offensive power from their outsides, Milford trailed most of the 3rd game, but the Hawks would not give up. Finally, a Kane Wittorff kill gave them a 17-16 lead. Back and forth play was driving the fans of both sides nuts as a Wasik tip and Cambridge error pushed it into Milford's hands. Surviving once was Milford, but they were still with their backs against the wall. As an all red basketball player and a rather hairy wrestler stood affront the Milford fan section, the 4th game began. A Milford run opened the game until some big blocks for Cambridge and a 5-0 run put Cambridge up 15-12. Milford refused to give up. Waving their hands for the crowd to get loud and going for every ball like life depended on it, Milford battled back to secure the 27-25 victory.
It was on! Milford 2, Cambridge 2, game to 15. This was how a state championship game should go. With 11 ties and 5 lead changes, Milford and Cambridge both showed incredible dedication and determination. Trying to hear myself think was an impossible task the entire game. With the score 12-11 Milford, the wheels fell off. A 4-0 run by Cambridge was heartbreaking for the, now, 22-1 Hawks. Penrose showed unbelievable dedication as he scored 10 of Cambridge's 15 points in the final set. Various cries, fallen heads and a sense of disbelief filled the Milford side, while cheers and celebration ran ramped on the other. In by far one of the great sporting events I have ever seen, Cambridge downed Milford 3-2 to take home the 2012 state championship.