Silver Chips Online

Fall 2009 sports preview

September 11, 2009
Along with the newly installed turf field comes new territory to which Blair's fall sports teams can lay claim. As the prim, neat green expanse of playing ground lies before them, Blazer athletes can visualize a season of record-breaking success and powerful victory. The team members are already invigorated and anxious to jump-start their seasons with new players and recently developed skills. Many athletes have trained long and hard during the summer months and will bring their newly acquired muscles, techniques and endurance to the field this fall. The season ahead shows promise; there's no doubt that Blazers will pave their way to state and county championships, and leave behind formidable footprints as they take the steps to reach their season goals.

Cross Country
by Anya Gosine

As last year’s Division III champions, Blair’s cross country team is heading into a new division and new season with a young but confident team. With close to 60 runners and a varsity squad mainly comprised of juniors and sophomores, co-coach Eric Prange feels this season will be predominantly focused on improving the team for the years ahead.

Blair cross country lost many seniors last year, including the top two girl runners and most of the boys' team. While Prange feels the girls will perform well this season, he believes the boys will be in a "rebuilding year." Regardless, the team will continue to implement last year's strategical agenda. "We’re always tweaking, but nothing too radical," Prange said.

Though there are no fourth-year runners on the team this year, Prange has high expectations for many of the team members. He noted that junior Jennifer Sholar and senior Jan Nguyen, who have improved significantly since last year, will be top runners for the girls. Sophomores Kathryn Klett and Myla Sapp are also expected to rank high, although Klett suffered an injury last year. For the boys' team, junior captains Jeremy Ardanuy, Peter Leonard and Gabe Pollak are runners to keep an eye on.

Although the upcoming season may not match the record-breaking heights of cross country's undefeated 2008 season, the team is optimistic about continuing to build their reputation among Montgomery County Schools. "We're always trying to keep things positive," Prange said.

Field Hockey
by Masha Lafen

After a 7-5 record last year, the Lady Blazers are already on their way to another winning season. With many returning juniors and seniors, the team is more experienced than it has been in the past. Many players also worked during off-season to improve their skills, and head coach Brooke Franceschini is thrilled. "I'm really excited about the season," she said.

Senior Nellie Garlow fends off an attack from Einstein. Colin Wiencek
Senior Nellie Garlow fends off an attack from Einstein.
Last year, the team lost three games by one point. Franceschini plans to strengthen the offense so the Blazers can win more games by a comfortable margin. "We are scoring [more goals] this season," she said.

Franceschini also wants to improve communication and organization among teammates as they get used to the faster pace of field hockey on a turf field. "I look forward to seeing them get better as the season progresses," Franceschini said.

Senior co-captains Laura Li, Annie Buckley, Nellie Garlow and Lily Alexander will lead the team this year. Junior forward Miranda Bernard will be a key member of the team's offense; she has already scored six goals in the first two games of the season. New starters on the varsity team include sophomore defender Hadley Luker and junior midfielder Lyla Shapiro.

This year the Blazers will be competing against teams they have never played before, including Magruder, Paint Branch and Sherwood. Despite the unfamiliarity of their opponents, Franceschini is optimistic. "I see us being a contender in most of our games," she said.

Varsity Football
by Blake Morgan-Gamber

After an impressive 5-5 record in the 2008 season, Blair’s young 2009 varsity football team is looking to keep motivation alive by building on last year’s success.

Head coach Jeffery Seals, who has been coaching at Blair for over 25 years, and junior varsity head coach Adrian Kelly noted the important role of their four senior captains in guiding the new team to victory. Since the group is comprised mostly of juniors, senior captains Andrew Gondor (running back and free safety), Daniel Solomon (offensive and defensive tackler), Alex Egber (quarterback) and Ibrahim Jarr (linebacker and fullback) are expected to help the many players who lack varsity experience. "We're counting on those four guys to lead the team," Kelly said.

In order to prepare for the challenging season that lies ahead, the varsity squad put forth a lot of effort during the on and off seasons, according to Seals and Kelly. "They work hard during practice, and they've been in the weight room pretty much from June 15 to August 15," Kelly said.

Blair's football coaching staff looks to capitalize on the team's main strength: their speed. The coaches claim that hard work and confidence in their talent and potential will allow the Blazers' desire for success to become reality. "Hopefully we can build on the 5-5 record we had last year," Kelly said. "Coming from the '07 season when we were 0-10, [the players] see anything is possible with the power of work."

Boys' Varsity Soccer
by Jialin Quinlan

Coming off last season's record of 8-4-2, varsity boys' soccer hopes to keep the momentum going. "It'll be tough to do better than last season," Coach John Haigh said. He sees a lot of potential in his young team and expects to see them improve over the course of the season. “By playoff time we’ll be playing our best soccer," Haigh said.

Senior  Alexander Baldwin takes the throw in. Lorena Kowalewski
Senior Alexander Baldwin takes the throw in.
With the graduation of several key players last year, senior co-captains Aaron Baldwin and Alexander Baldwin predict that the younger players will quickly rise to the challenge. "There are a lot of new players stepping up to the plate," Baldwin said. According to Baldwin, two players to keep an eye on are sophomores Jorge Pacheco and Dominic Ventimiglia.

And what this young team may lack in experience, they plan to make up for with cohesion and teamwork. "Our communication on the field is better than ever," Baldwin said.

Coach Haigh is optimistic about the team’s prospects this season. "They have a lot of potential," Haigh said. "I think we can make a good playoff push."

Girls' Varsity Soccer
by Gardi Royce

Following a record-breaking season in 2008, the girls’ varsity soccer team believes they can achieve more. But after losing eight key seniors last year, senior captains Darcy Peliz-Butler, Kelly Peliz-Butler, Imani Pierre and Erica Horne will have to develop a new team and set strong goals for success.

A soccer ball flies through the air during a summer preseason session. Colin Wiencek
A soccer ball flies through the air during a summer preseason session.
Coach Robert Gibb thinks they will accept the challenge heartily, and has high hopes for the team in general. He points to the new, talented junior varsity recruits as players who will bring skill and a drive for success to the varsity team. "The JV was really good, and we're getting good players who are used to winning," Gibb said.

With this positive attitude, the Blazers are poised to make another deep playoff run. Junior midfielder Willa Schneiderhan believes the team will do well. "We have a solid lineup and Gibb has been pushing us to our limits," she said.

Despite the glory of the 2008 season, Gibb hopes the Blazers will surpass those accomplishments. "We believe we can equal last year's achievements and go beyond their success. Our final goal is to make state [competition]," he said.

Girls' Varsity Tennis
by Mandy Xu

As the Blazers were a Division I team last year, Coach David Ngbea, who has been coaching boys and girls tennis for 18 years, believes the team will once again achieve Division I status this year. "I expect us to win enough games to make it to Division I," Ngbea said. "I expect us to stay there. I will be upset if we don't make it."

Sophomore Anna Lu smashes the ball back towards the Panthers. Wylie Conlon
Sophomore Anna Lu smashes the ball back towards the Panthers.
In fact, the future looks bright for the team. The 20 member tennis team is composed mostly of returning players, and there are seven seniors. Senior captains Tiffany Chang, Deepa Chellapa, Elissa Shiau and Sarah Tran are definitely players to watch, but Ngbea is still unsure about the future MVP. He states that junior Shilpa Kannan and freshman Janvi Raichura are potential candidates, but it too early to say much. Janvi Raichura is the only player on the team who was not a member the previous year, but displayed skill during tryouts.

Despite the fortunate lineup of players, the team will not be slacking by any means. Ngbea states that his goal has never changed. He wants the girls to improve their overall game. "I expect that we learn forehands and backhands, the basic strokes of tennis," he said. "I'm hoping as the season rolls on, we'll understand and put into practice the things we've been learning. I want them to execute in a competitive setting."

Varsity Girls' Volleyball
By Jasmine Sarjeant

Under the leadership of co-captains Sibyl Brown and Elaine Brice, and remarkable strength of seniors Caitlin Schmidt and Katie Hague, who new coach Christopher Klein described as an "unbelievable, strong hitter," the girls' volleyball team is poised to improve on last year's 9-7 record.

Senior Kaitlin Schwindt sends the ball back to her opponents. Alex Joseph
Senior Kaitlin Schwindt sends the ball back to her opponents.
Although the Blazers are returning with a very capable collection of senior girls, the team is supported by a large number of freshman and sophomore players, including senior Julia Skolnik and sophomore Nika Lilley who have both earned spots on the starting roster. Sophomores Libby Wei, Cha Cha Wong, and freshman Linda Wang are also new additions to the team. "We're doing remarkably well for such a young team," Klein said.

After a close loss to Churchill in the second round of last year's playoffs, former captain Caitlin Ludington was worried about how group dynamics and the age gap would affect their performance. However, the Lady Blazers are displaying excellent teamwork and the younger players are holding their own.

The girls "have excellent potential," Klein said. "They're in transition, but they're on the right track."