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April 14, 2007

Maximus-worthy effort downs Gladiators

by Andrew Kung, Online Sports Editor and Copy Editor
APR. 11, NELSON H. KOBREN MEMORIAL GYMNASIUM-

Only four games into the volleyball season, the Blazers' coed volleyball team has already exceeded their win total from a year ago. On Wednesday night, Blair coed overcame a slow start to defeat the Northwood Gladiators in three games, 25-13, 25-11 and 25-13. This latest victory puts Blair's record at an impressive 3-1. Although the spring break rust showed in the game's early goings, the Blazers' superior serving and teamwork were more than enough to handle Northwood.

Both teams started the match sloppily, as neither team could consistently put the ball in play. Six of the game's first ten points came off of serves that either landed out or did not clear the net. The intensity of the match was vibrant, but neither team could find a rhythm. The Blazers finally settled down when senior co-captain Tim Lee started serving, winning five straight points, including three aces, to take a 18-9 lead. Lee's outburst combined with Northwood's continued erratic play led to an easy 25-13 Blazer victory.

Coach Greg Franklin attributed the slow start to the long layoff of spring break, during which only one practice was held. "Everybody was rusty," he said. "We kept making silly mistakes."

By the second game, the Blazers had rounded into form, scoring the first three points, including a resounding spike from senior Cal Burton and an ace from junior co-captain Julie Brice. Blair went on a 7-0 run again with Lee serving, including two more aces. Despite the growing lead, Blair continued its steady play and hustle, including a gutsy dive from senior Brian Han and another ace from Brice that finished Northwood again. Pushing the final score to 25-11.

The third set began with the Gladiators jumping to an early 2-0 lead off a Blair miscue and a lifting call against the Blazers. Blair rebounded to score the next three, taking the lead for good. Strong service from Burton and fellow senior Felicia Olawuni extended the lead to 17-5. Northwood attempted a last-minute rally, but could not come closer than 10 points, as Blair concluded their sweep of the Gladiators with a final score of 25-13.

The Blazers saw strong play and leadership from their co-captain Brice, who as the team's only setter, served as the catalyst of the Blair attack while fending off illness and fatigue. "She's a warrior," said coach Franklin, calling her the "glue" that holds the team together. Brice played almost the entire game despite feeling sick that morning. For the first time all season, the entire team saw playing time, including extensive minutes for freshmen Kaiti Hague and Vikas Mendhiratta.

This latest loss drops Northwood to 0-4, as the fledgling program in just its third year of existence continues to seek its first victory since the school's reopening. Northwood, composed of only ninth, tenth and eleventh graders, fielded a team that, according to Northwood coach Ray Trail, has little experience playing volleyball.

According to Trail, Northwood held their own in the game's early goings as both teams were rusty, but admitted that as Blair began pulling away in the middle of game one, his inexperienced squad was "intimidated," and unable to gain confidence against a seasoned Blazers squad.

Despite his program's struggles, Trail remains optimistic about their future. "It's looking up," he said, citing improved spirit and increased experience. "We'll try to get a couple victories this year."

Although the game was somewhat lopsided, coach Franklin was very satisfied with his team's performance. "We're starting to play much better as a team," he said. "We're getting the team to play as a unit."

The road ahead is far from flowery for Blair volleyball, with a home game this Friday against Einstein and two away games next week on against Seneca Valley and Clarksburg.

Lee was happy with the team's performance on Wednesday, but hopes to improve on the team's coordination, conditioning and serving, citing upcoming matches against Damascus (Apr. 25), Rockville (Apr. 30) and Sherwood (May 4) as particularly challenging and key to the team's success this year. He was especially critical of the lapses in service. "We kept missing serves," said Lee. "We can't miss serves against [opponents like Damascus, Rockville and Sherwood]...This is the toughest part of our schedule."

Coed volleyball takes on Einstein at home this Friday, Apr. 13



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  • russuel crowe on April 17, 2007 at 7:33 PM
    haha i like that headline
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