Seniors unable to stave off Paint Branch, disappointment
NOV. 3, NELSON H. KOBREN MEMORIAL GYMNASIUM –
Spirits were high this afternoon as the Blair girls' volleyball team kicked off their last game of the season against the Paint Branch Panthers. Following a brief pre-game ceremony honoring Blair's six graduating senior players, the team came on strong, and the first game was so close the players could taste it like the chocolate they had received from Coach Anne Garrison. But the first game slipped away quicker than the daylight outside lost to the Sunday night crossover, and Blair could not battle back. With tired eyes, tired minds, and tired souls, the Blazers put their season to rest this afternoon, losing their final home game to the Paint Branch Panthers 20-25, 9-25, and 16-25.
An all-senior line-up consisting of AJ Willis, Agathe Nyake, Yicong Liu, Thaissa Souza, Kristina Yang, and Kate Selby started for the Blazers and played each point of the match. The shake-up seemed to rejuvenate the team early on, but as the games dragged on and the points became more complicated, Blair's lack of substitution took a readily apparent toll on the Blazers' play and spirit.
Paint Branch looked like the Blazers of old in the opening minutes of the match, failing to communicate on services and hitting critical shots into the net. At 4-5, AJ Willis served two straight aces and then another serve that the Panthers misplayed, prompting a Paint Branch timeout with the score at 7-5. The teams pulled even at eight, nine, 10, 11 and 12, trading blows and missed kills. A netted serve drove the score to 13-12 in Blair's favor, and Thaissa Souza served two straight points to 15-12, the second on an excellent spike, block, kill effort by Willis. Paint Branch put a couple of points in edgewise, but Kristina Yang and then Willis served the Blazers to a commanding 20-14 position, prompting an almost electrical response from the assorted fans. Paint Branch, unfortunately, regained the serve on a shot that barely arced over the net onto the Blair side, and the Panthers never looked back. The game intensified; each point became a battle, with several shots over the net on both sides each time, all ending in a heart-breaking fashion for the Blazers. The Panthers pulled it even at 20 on a Blair miscommunication that left them unable to get the ball over in three hits, and three missed kills, a missed block, and an ace later Blair had lost the first game to eleven straight opposing points, 20-25.
The Blazers never regrouped. Tired and spent from the battle that had been the first game, Blair regressed to the style of play that had left them at 1-11 heading into the afternoon's game. Blair kept it competitive early, pulling from 1-4 to 4-4 on the service of Willis. However, Blair would stay at four while the Panthers rolled off six straight points to 4-10, then twelve more after a brief Blair interruption to bring the score to an insurmountable 5-22. The Blazers' play was sloppy throughout, especially in terms of miscommunication and passing troubles. Blair scored three more points on frenzies that went their way, but Paint Branch pulled out the easy game win, 9-25.
In what would turn out to be the last game of the regular season for the Blazers, neither team seemed to be able to execute. Points boiled down to who lost focus first, and it usually wasn't too long until that happened. Willis scored several early points on sharp blocks and kills, and the Blazers were on somewhat even ground at 9-11, but the Panthers capitalized on four straight unreturned serves to bring the score to 9-15. The Panthers never dominated as they had in the previous game, but made slightly fewer mistakes than did the reeling Blazers, who found themselves at 14-22 after a shot by Agathe Nyake bounced harmlessly off the floor on the Blair side. Blair managed only two more points before hitting the next three shots into the net, ending their season with a disappointing 16-25 game loss.
Despite the team's lack of success in the season, senior co-captain Kristina Yang had optimistic words for her team. "We did all right," said Yang. "We start out strong, btu we kind of fizzle toward the end." She also noted that the Blazers had not been able to practice in several days, and that the all-senior line-up had been "something to adjust to." Senior Yicong Liu agreed. "It was the first time we had the all-senior team out there," said Liu. About the season, Liu had three words that seemed to capture the Blazers' spunk the whole season through: "We had fun."
Nick Falgout. Nick Falgout was bored one day and decided to change his Chips staff information. And now, for a touching song lyric: "I'm a reasonable man, get off my case Get off my case, get off my case." ~ Radiohead, "Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd … More »