Silver Chips Online

Fall sports season wrap-up

November 23, 2009
With the installment of the new turf field at the beginning of the school year came new highs and lows for Blair fall sports teams. Varsity football didn't quite match their .500 record of last year, but they ended the season with a definitive victory over archrival Northwood in an intense Battle of the Boulevard. The varsity field hockey and varsity girls' soccer teams both walked off the field with impressive winning records. The Lady Blazers of varsity soccer fell to only one opponent throughout the entire season, while the field hockey team made their way into the third round of playoffs.

This season, Blair's cross country team struggled in a higher division with less experienced varsity runners than last year, but the young team improved significantly and coaches believe the team will face a better season next year. Tennis players also faced some struggles with a lack of seasoned athletes, but kept their Division I title. Overall, most teams made strong advancements into the playoffs and hope to boost their records for next season.

Cross country
by Anya Gosine

After rising to Division II last year, the girls' and boys' cross country teams dropped back down to Division III this season, as many young runners took on varsity status for the first time. "This year was really about rebuilding the team after losing about 20 seniors out of 50 runners last year," senior captain Jan Nguyen explained. The boys' team had only one returning varsity runner, junior Jeremy Ardanuy, as the girls' team faced a loss of two talented varsity seniors, according to Nguyen.

Junior Connor Dowd and sophomore Connor Donahue stick together during the grueling 4A Regional race.  Lorena Kowalewski
Junior Connor Dowd and sophomore Connor Donahue stick together during the grueling 4A Regional race.
Though Blair did not have a winning record, co-coach James Demma recognized that the team ran a particularly strong race at the Georgetown Prep Fall Classic meet, where the boys placed 17th and the girls placed 11th. The girls' team also claimed the first annual Downtown County Consortium Cross Country Championship.

While no runners qualified for state this year, Demma noted that the team strengthened as a whole throughout the season. He highlighted juniors Dominic Florin, Connor Dowd and Natsnat Mehreteab as three of the most improved runners.

The team also struggled with sickness and injury throughout the season, but was still able to race well despite many absences, according to Demma. "[We] overcame them by being patient and improvising our lineup," he said.

Next year, Demma hopes the team will dominate Division III and qualify for the state championships. Nguyen feels the gains made this fall will help the team reach their goal next year. "Hopefully after this season's reconstruction, the team will return with more competitive and experienced runners," she said.

Varsity field hockey
by Masha Lafen

At the beginning of the varsity field hockey season, head coach Brook Franceschini predicted that the Lady Blazers would pose tough competition for the other 4A division teams. By the end of the season, the Blazers had proved her right. The team concluded their season in the third round of playoffs with a winning 8-6 record.

Senior Nellie Garlow reaches for the ball. Alex Joseph
Senior Nellie Garlow reaches for the ball.
The team started the season with a 4-0 winning streak, followed by three consecutive losses. But by the end of the season, the team was able to regroup and finish with a winning record. "This year was kind of a roller coaster," Franceschini said. But she was proud of the way the team recovered from the losing streak.

This year the Lady Blazers took on many challenging opponents for the first time. Despite the players' initial uncertainty going into many games, the team remained competitive in every match, losing only a few by close margins.

Franceschini identified seniors Lily Alexander, Nellie Garlow and Laura Li, and juniors Blake Morgan-Gamber and Janet Henkai as crucial members of the team's set-up. "They made a lot of pivotal moves," she said. She awarded senior captain Annie Buckley the "Most Improved" award at the Fall Sports Awards Banquet for her development over the course of the season and reliability on goal.

Overall, Franceschini was pleased with the entire team's performance. "We've had a pretty successful team this year," she said.

Varsity football
by Blake Morgan-Gamber

Blair's varsity football team finished their 2009 season with a decent 3-7 record. The Blazers were unable to earn a berth to the playoffs, but ended the season with a memorable 37-20 home-game win against Blair's greatest rival, Northwood.

Two players crash during the final minutes of the homecoming game. Colin Wiencek
Two players crash during the final minutes of the homecoming game.
Head coach Jeff Seals was content with the team's performance, but noted that the Blazers' largest obstacle was consistency. "We made mistakes. A lot of kids did good things off and on," he said. Regardless, the Blazers developed their game as the season progressed. "Sometimes it takes time," Seals said. "The kids did a lot better. We improved from beginning to end."

Senior captains Andrew Gondor, Abe Jarr, Alex Egber and Dan Solomon led the team, and Seals highlighted all four athletes as key players. The relatively young squad turned to their captains for leadership, and the seniors did not let them down. "[The team] was a bunch of young kids who pulled together," Seals said. Overall, he was pleased with the talent of this season's squad, but is still looking forward to next year as a year for greater improvement.

Girls' varsity soccer
by Gardi Royce and Laura Anthony

Freshman Mimi Verdonk steals the ball. Lorena Kowalewski
Freshman Mimi Verdonk steals the ball.
After a record-breaking 2008 season, girls' varsity soccer looked to build their team around a strong nucleus of veteran players. The Blazers nearly matched last year's success; they won an impressive 11 games, falling only to B-CC. Their victories were largely a result of their unyielding defense, anchored by senior co-captain Imani Pierre. Feared goalkeeper sophomore Lena Meyerson also contributed to the team's success by allowing only six goals during the 14-game season. The torrid Blazer offense consistently burned county opponents, racking up an impressive 55 total goals. Junior Sophia Read and sophomore Jamie Kator served as a formidable duo, ripping through opponent defenses to score a breathtaking 27 goals.

An intense passion and desire to win propelled the Blazers into the second round of playoffs, where they lost to B-CC, a disappointment that prevented them from having a perfect record. Although the team didn't meet their state championship goals, senior co-captain Erica Horne believed the Blazers played incredibly. "We had an amazing season and even though we didn't go as far as we wanted, the girls were one of the best teams ever." Among teams in recent years, the 2009 season will certainly be one of the most memorable because of the team's intense talent and desire to win.

Varsity tennis
by Mandy Xu

Girls' tennis faced difficulty this season after losing their number one singles player Sneha Kannan. Every singles player had to advance, with freshman Janvi Raichura filling the fourth singles position. "Traditionally, teams have one or two strong singles," Coach David Ngbea explained. "Singles are usually stronger than doubles. This was not the case." The team depended on strong doubles teams this season. Girls’ tennis wrapped up the season with a close 5-7 record.

Senior co-captain Sarah Tran serves the ball with concentration. 
Alex Joseph
Senior co-captain Sarah Tran serves the ball with concentration.
Blair's win against Magruder was a highlight of the season. Without the victory, Blair's tennis team would have lost its Division I title. Division I teams must defeat at least one other team in the division to maintain their title. In addition, Ngbea felt that the match against Sherwood, now a Division I team, was well-played although Blair lost 5-2. "We played respectably, though several key players didn't play," Ngbea said. Junior Anya Gosine and sophomore Stella Bartholet filled in singles three and four, respectively.

Juniors Hannah Ho and Ava Wallace were two players who stood out to Ngbea. "They are the reasons why we stayed in Division I," he said. The second doubles teammates had a season record of 10-2 and were seeded fourth in their position in county playoffs. Senior captain Sarah Tran also played consistently throughout the season at number three singles, garnering the "Most Improved" award at the fall sports award ceremony.

The next season will prove to be even more challenging, as four seniors in the starting line up will be leaving. Number two singles Deepa Chellappa, number three singles Sarah Tran and number one doubles Elaine Shiau and Tiffany Chang will graduate in the spring. "If you lose multiple key players, you can't move everyone up," Ngbea said. "It's a precarious position."

Season Wrap-Up Boys' Varsity Soccer
Jialin Quinlan

The varsity boys' soccer team fell to the Whitman Vikings in the second round of the playoffs to end with a successful 8-4-2 season. The team showed marked improvement over the course of the season. "The team became much more disciplined than in previous seasons in addition to some dramatic improvement in skills," senior co-captain Xander Baldwin said.

The team fared better than what was originally expected of them, rising up and beating teams that had come to play underestimating their talent. The Blazers won against the undefeated Sherwood, with both goals scored by senior co-captain Aaron Baldwin, and shut out Churchill in the first round of the playoffs, both times winning decisively and sending a wakeup call to other teams in the league who might have thought they could overlook Blair. "They did not come out as intensely as we had anticipated," Baldwin said of the other teams. "Though still we played our hearts out knowing that there was some possibility we could win." The Blazers also defeated rival Northwood in the Battle of the Boulevard thanks to the game-winning goal by senior midfielder Otis Banwell.

Despite a disappointing loss to Whitman, the team is already gearing up for next season. The team is looking forward to another great season under the leadership of next year's captains junior Kit Durban and sophomore George de Rossi. "Next season the Blair team will hopefully do just as well with addition of a few new players," Baldwin said.