Montgomery Blair High School's Online Student Newspaper
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May 19, 2006

Boys' volleyball wins second county championship

by Merlyn Deng, Online Editor-in-Chief and Payal Patnaik, Online Editor-in-Chief

Blair's boys' volleyball team beat the Sherwood Warriors for the volleyball county championship yesterday, 25-21, 26-24 and 25-18. After only three sets, the Blazers emerged victorious with their second straight title.

The story of last year's win was about an underdog who came from behind in the playoffs, beating the very teams it lost to in the regular season. This year's story was about a team recuperating after the loss of six key players. With only one senior starter on the team this year, the boys' volleyball team faced the challenge of building their newer and younger players, according to last year's coach, JJ Rathnam. They met the challenge successfully and managed an almost perfect season record of 12-1. Their only loss was against the Sherwood Warriors, which ended with a heartbreaking fifth set that reflected the caliber of both teams.

Last night was Blair's second chance to prove itself. As students, teachers and alumni cheered in the stands, the Blazers faced the Warriors down with a newfound maturity on the court that the Blazers had developed since their last confrontation against Sherwood's boys. Although the game's scores were close, the Blazers showed that they were the dominant team of the county.

The first game of the match started off neck and neck. Sherwood forged forward with the first point in the match, but then served to the net. As the game wore on, both teams exchanged points with each other, hitting either out or into the net. After coming back from the timeout, junior Max Wolf hit strongly into the hole in the center. At 13-13, junior co-captain Jay Chang hit hard into two Sherwood blockers who were unable to contain the ball. The solid teamwork among players enabled them to gain the lead against the Warriors. Co-captain junior Tim Lee reliably defended the hits, enabling freshman Willy Li's solid sets to assist junior Allen Zhang, Wolf and Chang in hitting effectively throughout the first set. Senior Adrian Cretzu's serves helped the boys to break away from the tie and create a small two-point lead. Zhang tipped the ball after a brief exchange between the teams' blockers to end the set, 25-21.
Junior Max Wolf rises several feet into the air to prepare for one of his characteristically strong and consistent hits. Rayna Andrews
Junior Max Wolf rises several feet into the air to prepare for one of his characteristically strong and consistent hits.

The second set of the match was the closest of the three games. But the close score was due to the boys' careless errors and the Warriors' determination to use these mistakes to their advantage. The score was close again at the beginning of the game. Unforced errors gave costly points to Sherwood, but Blair strategically set to the hole, throwing off Sherwood. The Blazers capitalized on their momentum, and at 13-14, Sherwood was falling apart.

After an exchange of unforced errors, Sherwood finally fell behind as Li produced four successful serves. By the second set, the Warriors' weaknesses were exposed: although they were able to receive and hit strongly, the holes in their playing formation weakened their punch. Even after an amazing show of Sherwood's miraculous saves, which had the ball flying all over the court and Sherwood players in the risers, the Warriors lost another crucial point. In the end, the Blazers pushed for two points that ended the match, 26-24.

The Blazers started the third set with confidence to finish the match Junior Tim He played off the ankle injury he had sustained in Tuesday's game to make well-placed hits set by Li into the center of Sherwood territory, which was their Achille's heel. He and Zhang made a formidable blocking pair as Cretzu made consistently strong hits to contribute to Blair's score.

Zhang made a series of jump serves until Blair's rally ended at 10-6. Even though they were in the lead at the Sherwood timeout, at 19-13, none of the Blazers let his guard down in the crucial last moments. In the end, the focus and determination in each player pulled off the final win, ending their championship run at 25-18 when Zhang's strong hit decisively smashed onto Sherwood's floor.

The audience, who had anxiously bated their breaths, unleashed their pent up enthusiasm immediately. A swarm of red moved down to the gym floor to engulf the boys as the win was still fresh in their minds.

Later on, Lee profusely expressed his happiness for all the support. "Thanks to all the fans, especially tonight, and thank you to the fans who came when the games were so boring," he said.
The Blair's boys' volleyball team, this year's coach, Sang Ahn and last year's coach, JJ Rathnam show off the Montgomery County's volleyball championship plaque after the game. Rayna Andrews
The Blair's boys' volleyball team, this year's coach, Sang Ahn and last year's coach, JJ Rathnam show off the Montgomery County's volleyball championship plaque after the game.

Chang, who also has another championship title under his belt, praised his boys and Sherwood's. "Both teams played a really good game," he said. Coach Sang Ahn agreed and went on to explain that most championship games are not an issue of who wins, but who loses. "[Sherwood] put up a really good fight... It was just us who walked in with the better day," he said.

Regardless of which team walked in with a better day, the boys' grins did little but betray the ecstasy they all felt for the win. Crowned as the champions of a county that turns out the most players in area Division I college ball, the boys' volleyball team have achieved, for the second year in a row, the highest honor any county volleyball team can win. More importantly, the season has been one of growth, both physically and mentally. Although many of the boys suffered from serious injuries, most of the players determinedly continued the season.

They can do it all over again next year. Guess we'll find out.

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  • john chai on May 19, 2006 at 12:29 AM
    Well done boys. It was a good game. We have a dynasty going on!
    And ask Changuris where on earth our championship banner is!
  • yeahhh on May 19, 2006 at 4:47 PM
    goooooooo booooooyyyssss
  • wenjia on May 19, 2006 at 7:20 PM
    blair boys volleyball is hot, hot, hot.
    i love you guys!
  • #11 on May 19, 2006 at 9:51 PM
    Tim He is the coolest! Way to hit! If you could only get there on time...

    Anyway, you shined despite your injury. I respect that.
  • yay! on May 20, 2006 at 4:21 PM
    go Anton!
  • Peter the Denominator on May 20, 2006 at 8:18 PM
    WOOHOOOO!!! Go Boys Volleyball!!!! You guys rock so hard.
  • olive on May 20, 2006 at 11:22 PM
    amazing game boys!
    there should definitely be a championship banner! :)
  • Wendolyn on May 21, 2006 at 10:05 AM
    You guys are awesome!!! Congrats to everyone, all of you shined.
  • ? on May 21, 2006 at 1:28 PM
    when will the more details come?
  • varun on May 21, 2006 at 4:44 PM
    great article, merlyn and payal.

    nice job, guys. and hey, that's my poster!
  • Dimples on May 21, 2006 at 5:31 PM
    awesome job boys! look forward to another great season next year! =]
  • manners on May 21, 2006 at 6:20 PM
    man...+3 for next year please =D
  • felicia on May 21, 2006 at 6:30 PM
    wow... great game you guys and great season..... that lost to Sherwood was close but you guys came back *nice* lol
  • felicia*again* on May 21, 2006 at 6:31 PM
    oh and we need to find those banners for blair.... i think we are the only school without them in our gym *Northwood dosen't count*
  • #6 on May 21, 2006 at 6:46 PM
    nice article!!!!!!!

    made me feel as if i was actually there ^_~
  • fan on May 21, 2006 at 6:54 PM
    you guys are, without a doubt, my heroes.

  • super fan on May 21, 2006 at 7:07 PM
    aight boys
  • Max #66 on May 21, 2006 at 7:47 PM
    Thanks for the great article, Merlyn and Payal!!
    And, as Tim said, thanks to everyone that came to watch and cheer (even thouse who couldn't go but were there mentaly =)). It was an awesome year to be on the team.
  • caitlin on May 21, 2006 at 8:35 PM
    YAY BOYS VOLLEYBALL!!! im sooooooooooo sorry i couldnt make it. i really wanted to but i had my concert. youll just have to win again next year so i can come. hehe anyway awesome job this season!!!
  • molly on May 21, 2006 at 9:19 PM
    the picture of max is pretty much the coolest thing i've ever seen
  • 03 alum (View Email) on May 22, 2006 at 4:58 AM
    if i were from sherwood...this article is a pretty big slap in the face...
  • =) on May 22, 2006 at 6:42 PM
    yay for blair's boys volleyball!
  • benched egg on May 22, 2006 at 7:20 PM
    "Chang pulled off an uncharacteristically carnal face..." haha that guy's carnal to Tim He all the time
  • just wondering on May 22, 2006 at 8:33 PM
    how come three of the starters are excluded from the team picture?
  • . on May 22, 2006 at 9:32 PM
    Just as a small nitpick, is the "Li" mentioned later on in the article the same person as Tim Lee?
  • . on May 22, 2006 at 9:34 PM
    :x Never mind. Didn't read carefully enough.
  • Merlyn Deng on May 22, 2006 at 9:36 PM
    To "just wondering":
    The reason why three of the starters are included from the team picture is that they left immediately after the game, as well as some other members of the team.

    Thanks for taking an interest in SCO, keep reading!

    Merlyn Deng, SCO staffer
  • all these asian names! on May 22, 2006 at 10:30 PM
    willy li is the freshman setter and tim lee is the junior co-captain and defensive specialist, libero
  • hm on May 22, 2006 at 10:42 PM
    i liked the old one better
  • jung on May 22, 2006 at 11:13 PM
  • Sam Silsbee on May 23, 2006 at 11:14 AM
    awesome job guys, 2 in a row! lets make it a 3-peat next year
  • let's go on May 23, 2006 at 11:45 PM

    good job. Even better next year (only one senior leaving?)
  • John Macdonald on May 24, 2006 at 11:18 AM
    Excellent job boys. You guys are a credit to Blair HS - great student / athletes, unselfish and hard working!
  • wow... on May 24, 2006 at 2:22 PM
    that's a mad hot pic of max

    he looks like he's floating
  • . on May 25, 2006 at 9:38 PM
    yay magnets!!! and only magnets
  • Queen on June 7, 2006 at 7:36 AM
    We are the champions, my friends
    And we'll keep on fighting till the end
    Cuz we are the champions, we are the champions
    No time for Sherw-er, cuz we are the champions.
  • an old vballer on July 13, 2006 at 11:54 PM
    i don't know if anyone has mentioned this. but the headline is incorrect. this is at least blair's third county championship, but second on the new system. they won it in 1999 as the underdog wildcard when only 4 teams made the playoffs and it was still sideout scoring.
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