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May 8, 2007

Blazers squeeze by Wootton Patriots

by Merlyn Deng, Online Editor-in-Chief
MAY 8, NELSON H. KOBREN MEMORIAL GYMNASIUM –

After suffering through dips and lows in their game tonight, the boys' volleyball team managed to beat the Wootton Patriots (6-6) in the first round of the playoffs. The boys', who won 25-15 in the first set, met unprecedented difficulty in the next three sets and won overall with 25-27, 25-23 and 25-21.

The boys' were still reeling from their second season loss against Sherwood. In the past two years, the boys' have lost to Sherwood in the traumatizing fifth set, 14-16, after committing fatal careless mistakes. Despite this curse, the boys' team have made up for it each year by defeating Sherwood in the final round and capturing the county championship title.

A game that should have lasted only three sets, the match against Wootton mirrored some of the unfortunate mistakes that have plagued the boys' team throughout the season. The boys' made no fewer than 18 baffling failed serves.

The initial set started off well, with seniors Allen Zhang and co-captain Max Wolf making the first solid kills of the game. The Wootton players, unable to return the steady barrage of hits, received most of their points when the boys' committed miscommunication errors or serving errors. Junior Willy Marte ended the game painlessly with a tip over the net, 25-15.

The boys' performance in the second set, however, was pockmarked by tragic flaws. The boys' were swept into a series of amateur individual errors. Right after several head-smacking shanks and failed serves, the boys' were behind the Patriots by six points, 13-19. Although the Blazers rallied for several points and managed to tie the game at 23-23. But the boys' finally lost the ball, and the set, at 25-27.

Determined not to lose the third set, the boys' finally stepped up their game. Sizing up their opponents carefully, senior co-captain Jay Chang and his team players pulled off successful rallies and easy tips. Despite the team's refreshed plays, they still found themselves hitting figurative walls in another deadlock at 18-18.

But after a strong hit and a successful jump serve from Chang, the boys' finally pulled ahead of the Patriots and brought the score to 19-18. Player He followed Chang's lead with a strong kill and turned the game into their favor, 20-19. Despite the brief reprieve, the Blazers were tied again at 23-23. Wolf finished off the final set with one of his signature hits, floating momentarily in the air before bringing the ball down hard into the gym's court, 25-23.

Thankfully, the boys' saved the best for the last in the fourth set. After dishing out several consistent kills, courtesy of Chang, Wolf and He, the boys' were poised for the win at 21-15. But at 23-17, disaster appeared to strike when He and sophomore setter Willy Li collided midair, leaving Li on the ground. The prospect of losing Li, who is responsible for positioning many of the boys' signature strong hits, left the Blazers and their fans in shocked silence as the boys' team surrounded the fallen player. After a few harrowing moments, Li shook off the injury and returned in the crucial final moments of the match. After several of their tactical tips and Wootton's mistakes, the game ended 25-21.

Although they won tonight, the boys' have a fair share of lessons to learn from the game this evening. With the exception to Wolf, the majority of the boys' plays tonight were inconsistent and far from their best, or usual. "A lot of people were listless and languid," Chang said, "A couple of people were sick." Excuses aside, though, Chang claimed that the boys' were "too confident and let too many balls drop."

The team's goal, as it has been all year, is to repeat Blair's custom of playing against Sherwood in the playoffs. Despite the on and off-again performance tonight, the Blazers can take a small comfort in knowing that when they do bring their game, they can dish out the types of hits and kills that will bring them a third championship title. Calling it "killer instinct," Chang explained that the boys' success in difficult games hinges upon their ability to get into the game. "Once we get into it, we have to keep on winning," Chang explained. "We have to play every game like every point matters," he added.

Unless the Blazers lose out to the Kennedy Cavaliers on Thursday, the Blazers are slated the play the fateful rematch next Tuesday.

But if the Blazers give a repeat performance of what happened today, the boys' may not be able to squeeze by the stronger Kennedy team. "[Kennedy] is really solid," commented Chang, "and we can't afford to make the same mistakes we did today."

The boys' volleyball team will play against Kennedy this Thursday.



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  • vball fan on May 14, 2007 at 10:34 PM
    I remember when the sports page would be updated the night after the game. Staff writers please do your job... The season records are looking kind of slum.
  • kevin (View Email) on May 29, 2007 at 2:42 PM
    umm...so how'd the team do in the playoffs?
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