Silver Chips Online

Spring sports preview

March 20, 2009
The spring sports season has begun and many Blazer teams are looking to improve on last year's success. The boys' volleyball team is looking for a county title after falling short of expectations last year. The girls' varsity lacrosse team looks to repeat on last season's success, despite graduating many key seniors. The varsity baseball and softball teams are trying to rebound after they fell short of their goals last year. The track team will have a hard time competing with many of last year's seniors gone after a second-place showing at the state meet.

by Rose Wynn

With a fresh strategy for success, Blair gymnastics leaps into the spring season with renewed vitality. After placing fifth out of seven at competition last year, coach Hillary Wynn approaches her second year with a new plan of action. "We're going to be consistent this year. Seven for seven on each event – that's our plan," she says with confidence.

This year's gymnastics team is chock full of talented lady Blazers, and Wynn has high hopes that the newcomers will be able to reach the soaring heights of the returning gymnasts. "Everybody looks better than last year," she says. "We're stronger, more willing, more outgoing and trying different skills. I think that will help us in the long-term." Wynn pinpoints freshman Cristal Gomez and sophomore Claire Hoffman as two of the skilled first-timers who will be able to reinforce the reliable performances of lead seniors Anna Hadfield and Abby Cember.

Wynn also acknowledges several other girls who will contribute significantly to this year's gymnastics team, noting that the group in general has a lot of potential. "All of the returning girls have the skills that we're looking for," she says. By dividing the team into smaller sections during practice to focus on the particular strengths and weaknesses of each gymnast, she hopes to develop an unbeatable team of tumblers.

Despite her plans for improvement, Wynn believes the new group of lady Blazers already has great potential for success. "I'm very excited for this year," she says. "Everyone's excited. There's a lot of team unity going on right now, so we're hopeful and we'll see what happens."

Varsity Baseball
Jenna Bushnell

This year Blair's varsity baseball is carrying a team of only 14 players, ten of which are returning varsity players. This experience, head coach John MacDonald believes, will give Blair an advantage despite the lack of depth. “I’m cautiously optimistic,” he said. “We’re not a deep team but they’ve definitely worked hard this year to be competitive.”
The boys' baseball team bats it up in the batting cage during a practice before spring season. The air is still cool, but the new team warms up with determination. Lauren Poor
The boys' baseball team bats it up in the batting cage during a practice before spring season. The air is still cool, but the new team warms up with determination.

While potential injuries this season are a concern for MacDonald, he decided to make sure that all of his players were up to varsity standards. “There are not a lot of ‘baseball players’ at Blair,” he said. “You can be athletic and not have the specific skills for baseball.” With that justification, MacDonald believes that he has created a team strong enough to compete well against teams this season.

After last years’ 10-11 season, MacDonald believes that there is room for betterment. “We have made strong improvements [from last year] and I hope we can translate that to wins this year.”

The teams’ strength will come from its pitchers, MacDonald asserts. He hopes to see co-captains seniors David Fegley and Josh Gordon lead the teams to victory throughout the season. Fellow seniors Neil Corran and Brady Ettinger return as the teams’ leading hitters after batting .388 and .340, respectively. Also, junior Alex Egber is someone to look out for this season and will be a key playmaker, MacDonald believes. “He has the potential to a top pitcher/catcher,” he said.

Despite the small team, this season looks good for baseball that will capitalize on their experience to gain wins. “We’re definitely a better team than last year,” MacDonald said.

Varsity Softball
by Jeremy Gradwohl

Softball looks to improve upon their 12-8 record of last year, with three new freshmen on their squad and six returning starters. Head coach Louis Hoelman says he is really happy with his team this year. “They worked hard in the offseason and it really showed on day one for us,” Hoelman said.
Freshman Margie Fuchs waited patiently while the pitcher failed to throw the ball in the strike zone. Lauren Poor
Freshman Margie Fuchs waited patiently while the pitcher failed to throw the ball in the strike zone.

The Lady Blazers will derive their strength from their bullpen, as freshman Samantha Schweickhardt joins the pitching staff. Sophomore Eve Brown will return as a starting pitcher. “She throws hard, hits her spots and keeps hitters off balance,” Hoelman said about Brown. Hoelman says he also expects senior co-captain Rachel Nicholson to anchor the infield from first base and lead the team with the help of senior co-captain Caitlin Ludington in centerfield and senior co-captain Xenia Oroxom.

Last year, Blair won seven of its last nine games and advanced to the second round of playoffs where they lost to Sherwood. Before that, however, the Lady Blazers had difficulty late in games, losing three that went into extra innings. Hoelman plans to address that issue with improved hitting in clutch situations to get runners in position to score. “We didn’t get enough people on base against tough pitching,” Hoelman.

Just two years removed from a 15-3 season that landed them in the 4A West region title game, the Lady Blazers are eager to return to elite status.

Varsity Boys’ Lacrosse
by David Tao

Despite a winning record of 8-6, last season ended in disappointment for the boys' lacrosse team, as they were ousted from the playoffs in a bitter first-round loss to rival Springbrook. This season, the traditionally defense-oriented Blazers are refocusing on scoring goals following the graduations of several key defensemen, including Ben Kastner, Russell King and starting goalie Mark Goodman.
The boys gather round and listen to some tips from their coach. Alex Joseph
The boys gather round and listen to some tips from their coach.

Although the team still has several strong returning defenders, not the least of who is senior co-captain and three-time division all-star Andy Holmes, the defensive bench has weakened, forcing the offense into a larger a role. "We're a little thin on defense," Coach Robert Gibb said. "Our offense has to step up."

Anchoring this new effort will be senior co-captains Mike Mozer and Eliot Gold, who play midfield. Additional support will come from sophomore attacker Guodong Fu and sophomore midfielder Vishnu Rao. New in net is sophomore Kit Durban, who started for JV last season. Gibb is confident in his new goalie, but notes that the transition to varsity-level play will be difficult. "I think he's going to be good," Gibb said. "But going from a JV to varsity goalie is like going from little league baseball to the pros."

Ultimately, the season will be judged mainly by the team's games against Paint Branch, Blake and Springbrook. "Those are programs that have a similar clientele to us," Gibb explained. "If we go 2-1 against those three teams, the other games will take care of themselves."

Girls’ Varsity Lacrosse
Deepa Chellappa

The girls' varsity lacrosse team takes the field with high expectations this season, coming off an impressive 9-3 regular record and recognition as divisional co-champions last year. Although the team graduated key seniors Julia Mazerov, Helen Anderson, Lizzie Horne, Rachita Sood and Priyanka Gokhale, it remains solid with senior powerhouses and co-captains Susie Branson, Vanessa Hoy, Katelyn Luker and Julia Stratton. "They're going to be huge this year," coach Michael Horne said of the four captains.
Julia Lewando, Sana Barclay and Tessa Mork do drills do improve their performance on the field. Alex Joseph
Julia Lewando, Sana Barclay and Tessa Mork do drills do improve their performance on the field.

The team faces challenges early on in the season as they take on the regional champions, the Wootton Patriots, to open the season this Friday at home. "We don't really have a grace period or warm-up period," Horne acknowledged. He asserted that while Wootton is a tough, skilled team, the Lady Blazers have determination on their side. "[We're] a very hardworking team and [we] recognize what it took to win [the division] last year," Horne said. "I think we'll definitely be major competition."

Hoy agreed with Horne, noting that while few girls have experience before they tryout for the team, their hard work will ensure continued success. "We've been practicing every day and having scrimmages pretty frequently to give the new girls a feel for how the game runs," she said. "We're all really optimistic about this season, but we know nothing is going to be handed to us."

Boys’ Volleyball
Sophia Deng

Boys' volleyball is back for a new season with one goal in mind: bring home a championship trophy. After last year's disappointing 10-2 regular season record and second round playoff loss to Rockville, the boys hope to finish this year with a perfect season.

The team remains stacked with talent and experience as only two seniors graduated last season. Of the 14 boys, nine are returning players, including powerhouse setters senior Willy Li and sophomore Robert Huang, along with outside hitter senior Pan Wang and middle hitter senior Nick Vujcic. To go for the title, the team is counting on old and new players alike. "We've picked up a few freshmen who got [the] potential to carry the team to champs," head coach Chris Liang said.

In addition to fresh talent, the boys have also perfected certain skills that had plagued them in the past. "Our passing and defense has definitely improved a lot, which was our weak point last year," co-captain Li said. With a strong team that has the chops and the drive to win it all, Liang is confident his boys will go far. "To the county championships!" he said.