Boys' volleyball defeats Sherwood for first county title since ‘99
MAY 19, MAGRUDER--
After falling to three of the county's top-seeded teams in the regular season, Blair's varsity boys' volleyball team found itself matched up against those very same teams, in the exact same order, in the postseason playoffs: Churchill, Kennedy and Sherwood. But after keeping Churchill from reaching finals for the first time in three years and upsetting first-seeded Kennedy, the Blazers were pumped and ready to turn the tables on Sherwood as well. Though the Blazers began their match against the Warriors with a crushing 10-25 defeat, they swept the next three matches 25-17, 25-21 and 27-25, taking home the county trophy.
Judging by Blair's performance in the first match, however, it would have been difficult to predict that they would be able to take home the county trophy; in fact, it wasn't even easy to believe that they had managed to defeat two of the county's highest seeds to advance to the final round. The Blazers could not pass, could not serve, could not kill--they were, in a word, stunningly atrocious.
The two teams were tied point for point in the first few minutes of the match, but the Warriors broke away at 5-5 and took the Blazers on an eight-point run, capitalizing on Blair's inabilities to cover short tips and shaky passing. Sophomore Jay Chang sent three hard kills down the Warrior's line, but the Blazers were never able to keep the serve for more than a point at a time; three missed serves, along with a very shaky defense that sent senior co-captain Paul Wong scrambling all over the court in his attempts to keep the ball moving, put the Warriors up by an incredible 14 point-margin at 22-8. Sherwood gave up a few free points toward the end, but Blair did the same, and two more Warrior kills quickly ended the match in Sherwood's favor.
"How Sherwood plays is distinctly different from how Kennedy and Churchill do," Wong said after the game, explaining why the Blazers struggled so much against Sherwood in that first, very ugly match. "[They] were more about power in their offense; Sherwood had a lot of versatile shots we weren't used to picking up. We weren't really expecting what came at us, so we couldn't adjust in the first game."
It wasn't until the second game that Blair showed its true strength, shifting its defense around for better coverage and generating the passes necessary to support a solid offense. The Blazers improved their serving percentage and doubled their kills in the second match, and the front line--led by senior Randy Li and sophomore Max Wolf--also significantly tightened up the block that had let so many Sherwood hits slip through in the first round. As a result, Sherwood saw its own kill percentage drop dramatically, and three missed Warrior serves contributed to put Blair ahead at 18-16 after a series of long, intense rallies.
The Warriors hoped to mount a comeback and take the match, but the Blazers would allow no such thing. Wong led the Blazers on a four-point run--their longest yet--that included Blair's first ace of the night, and though Sherwood's setter managed to put one more point on the Warrior's scoreboard with a clean dump onto Blair's court, an out-of-rotation call and a kill by Chang put Blair up 24-17. The Warrior's next tip went straight into the net, putting the match score at 1-1 and sending Blair's packed stands into a frenzy of cheers.
The third match went down in a similar manner, with the Blazers taking a 4-1 lead early on and never allowing Sherwood to make up for that initial three-point deficit. Along with senior co-captain James Lee, Chang and Li scored three kills apiece, while seniors Kevin Kahn and Jansen Sheng held down a tight defense that allowed Sherwood to kill only six plays. Although both sides saw inconsistency with basics such as serving, Blair managed to stay one step ahead of Sherwood at every point, finishing the match on an intense note with Li's third and strongest kill.
That intensity carried over into the fourth match, as the Blazers put up a 5-0 lead that soon increased to 10-4. Lee led the team with four of the match's ten kills, but every single Blazer hitter scored at least one kill of their own, and Chang took his second ace of the night.
As Blair's score rose into the teens, however, Sherwood began catching up, thanks at least in part to a decrease in focus and intensity on Blair's part. The Blazers missed two serves and several hits, and their passing slipped a bit as well; they found it impossible to keep the serve for more than one play at a time, and the Warriors were able to mount enough two- and three-point runs to tie the game up at 16.
A kill straight into the center of Sherwood's court by Wolf seemed to turn around Sherwood's comeback, as Chang and Lee both followed with kills of their own. But the Warriors, sensing that their chances at the county title were rapidly slipping away, mounted their strongest comeback of the night, dropping two kills of their own before Blair pulled ahead again at 22-19.
With only three points standing between themselves and the championship trophy, however, Blair let a Sherwood hit bounce off its block and land outside the court; two points later, after a contested Blair carry and a Sherwood kill, the Warriors tied the score back up at 22. Li countered with a kill off Sherwood's block, and Chang added his third ace of the night, seemingly sealing Blair's victory; but Chang's next serve went out of bounds, and Li sent his next attack out as well, putting the score at 24-24.
That was when Lee stepped in, driving a cross-court kill straight down into Warrior territory. Though Sherwood countered with one last kill of its own, its setter carried the next play, and the Warriors seemed to lose their focus by the time the dust had settled from their attempt to question that call. Lee blocked a Sherwood tip straight down and out of the Warriors' reach, putting a cap on the 2005 boys' volleyball season--and sealing Blair's championship title.
Surrounded by a mob of cheering fans and grinning players after the game's conclusion, Coach JJ Rathnam proudly displayed the county championship plaque and division championship trophy that the Blazers received, expressing his pride in the team's victory. "We lost to three teams, and then we beat all of them in playoffs," he said, explaining why the Blazers' victory was especially sweet. "These guys have worked for four years to get here. It's phenomenal, just phenomenal."
Kristina Yang. Kristina Yang is 1/10 of the Blair girls' volleyball team. When not on the court, she most likely to be running away from Magnet math homework, trying to pay off her three speeding/redlight tickets, or feeding her bubble tea addiction. She would also like to ... More »