Robbins, Roberts end Mercer’s reign
September 2, 2008
ASPEN ” The champ was down, and he wasn’t getting up. At least not until he finished his beer.
After a two-year reign at the MotherLode, Ivan Mercer found out Monday what it feels like to lose in the final match of the country’s largest pro-am beach tournament.
“I’m bummed out,” Mercer said after he and first-time partner Bill Chenowith were outfoxed for the final two points in a see-saw, three-game loss (21-18, 15-21, 20-18) to repeat finalists Adam Roberts and Vince Robbins at Koch Lumber Park.
“I’m very excited for even getting to the final again,” Mercer added. “But it’s disappointing to lose. Always. I never like losing.”
Neither do Robbins and Roberts.
The pair were on cruise control in last year’s final before a collapse in the second game gave Mercer and then-partner Eyal Zimet new life. The blown lead carried over to the clinching third game, where Mercer ” a former tight end for the Miami Hurricanes ” and Zimet pulled out a 15-13 win to give Mercer his second straight open title.
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Monday’s final followed nearly the same script, although Robbins and Roberts were determined to rewrite the ending. The duo staved off five straight elimination points in the third game, then earned a chance of their own to end the match when Roberts blocked a Chenowith spike. The match ended on the next rally, with Mercer unable to reach a drop shot from Roberts in the far court.
The strategy to send the shorter Roberts to the net to block Chenowith proved to be the difference in a duel that Mercer likened to a chess match. Up until that point, Robbins ” a blocking specialist from Denver ” had handled all of the work at the front of the net.
“Vince missed a couple of [Bill’s] cut shots and I said, you know what, why don’t I try one,” said Roberts, who hails from Myrtle Beach, S.C. “Why don’t I try blocking for the first time in the tournament? The first time in a year, maybe. It just worked out.”
Robbins was ecstatic to win his first MotherLode title in his 10th try, although he didn’t have much time to celebrate. He had to catch a plane out of Aspen shortly after the match ended.
“It feels good to bring it back to Colorado,” he said. “The difference was that I feel like last year we got a lead, then we kinda got a little complacent. Ivan’s a good player, and he made some plays at the end. This year, we had our backs against the wall for most of the match. We had to keep that fire the whole time, and it finally helped us out.”
The fire started building in the second game, after Robbins and Roberts threw away the momentum from their opening win with an uninspired start. They were down by as much as 13-4 before going on a 7-2 run that put a scare into Mercer and Chenowith. For the 11th point, Roberts dug two laser shots from Chenowith before Robbins hammered a kill home.
It was just one point in a losing effort, but it delivered a message.
“The reason I play with Adam is because he’s a competitor,” Robbins said. “He will never give up. He will always go after every single ball regardless of the score. It rubs off on me, and that’s what happened.”
After a string of close defeats, Roberts said it was energizing to finally be on the winning end of the final score.
“We got a lot of really close ones going back to about a year now,” said Roberts, who trains out of Myrtle Beach, S.C. “We’ve lost a lot of really close matches. Getting this one is really nice. I know Vince really wanted this one. I’ve gotten a second, third, a couple fifths here. This one I really wanted to win.”