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April 25, 2008

Boys' volleyball triumphs over Northwest

by Ya Zhou, Online Connections Editor & Online Copy Editor
NELSON H. KOBREN GYMNASIUM, April 21

After an electrifying hard-fought victory against Sherwood, Blair's ticket out of the playoffs last season, boys' volleyball defeated the Northwest Jaguars in straight sets to up their record to 5-1. The Blazers showed exemplary attention and concentration, especially in the second set, which ended 25-22.

The first set began with freshman Robert Huang's strong serve, and ended with junior co-captain Bryan Huang's powerful spike in deep court. After losing the serve to Northwest, the score flip-flopped between the two teams, with Blair ahead by a two to three-point margin. While the Blazers communicated better than in previous games, players still had trouble covering the entire court and refraining from running into each other. After a series of mistakes, the score was tied at 12-12 as junior co-captain Willy Li tipped the ball over the net, getting back the serve. A signature Robert Huang-run resulted; a mixture of aces and sound hits from Blair led to an 8-0 run. The set soon ended at 25-16 as Li finished it off with an ace.

After losing the first set, the Jaguars fought back with a vengeance in the second. The game was characterized by numerous illegal carries on both sides, but the error was made more apparent in the second set. A combination of Blair mistakes and good hits from Northwest gave the Jaguars a four-point advantage at 10-6 when Blair called its first time out. The Blazers regained some control afterwards, but continued to suffer from mistakes as the Jaguars maintained a stable lead.

Blair was relentless and fought hard to take the lead and the set as it called its second timeout facing a 20-15 deficit. Following the timeout, Blair closed the margin to a two-point deficit before sophomore Li Ma's spike made it a one-point game. Junior Nick Vujcic then helped Blair gain lead for the first time in the second set with two crucial spikes. Ma then carried the Blazers through for the last two points with consistent serves. Blair won the set 25-22.

In the last set, the Blazers dominated throughout as senior Steven Lu was introduced as the libero, a player who can freely switch into the game without immediate prior notice to the referee. Blair's coach Chris Liang wanted to simulate the conditions of the team as they might be on Wednesday's game against Paint Branch, during which the sophomore players will be away on a school trip. Blair began with newfound rigor in the third set, and the Jaguars began to make more mistakes. Halfway through the game at 10-3 with Blair in the lead, the teams exchanged an exciting volley in which each powerful spike was received successfully until Blair hit out. Despite this minor setback, the Blazers maintained control throughout the game, ending 25-12.

Co-captain Willy Li commended the Blazers' strong start in the first set and their regain of focus late in the second. Li wanted Blair to continue working on maintaining control throughout the game. "In the end [of the second set] we pulled it together and got our passing and defense back up to the usual level," Li said. "Now we really need to work on not dropping the intensity in the middle of the game and start of strong like we did today."

The Blazers' next home game is on Monday, April 28 against Wootton at 7:00 p.m.



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