Blair loses to Whitman 2-3
MAY 10, NELSON H. KOBREN MEMORIAL GYMNASIUM—
Coed volleyball lost 22-25, 21-25, 25-19, 25-13, 12-15 to Whitman in the first round of playoffs. Recent injuries and frequent mistakes were the proverbial straw that broke the Blazer's back.
Blair ended the regular season with a 11-25, 8-25, 4-25 loss to Sherwood last Friday. Co-captain Zack Koerper sprained his ankle during the warm-up and did not play. Freshman setter Julie Zhu had a similar ankle injury and cheered the team on from the sidelines. Sophomore Cal Burton was sick and did not show. Sophomore Allen Zhang's back was hurting him and he also did not show. Without the four players, each of whom coach John Mott declared as having strong starter caliber, the team ended the season 8-5 and was seeded tenth in the playoffs.
Today's game was epic in both time and structure. Lasting two hours long, the game started with three heavily contested sets and ended in the same fashion.
Hitting was a major issue in the first set. The Blazers constantly tried to spike the ball without getting adequate height. As one of the team's most consistent front line men, Koerper was slowed down and distracted by pain in his recovering ankle. According to Koerper, he lost two inches in his jump. Most other Blazers were also unable to get the height necessary to come down on the ball because of simple shortness.
Communication was a big issue in the first set. Twice, the Blazers let the ball drop solely because neither of the two players in the ball's path went for it, thinking the other was going after it. Fortunately, Blair prevented later miscommunications by having better floor spacing and concerned itself from then on with coping with various other, smaller mistakes and the overwhelming power of Whitman spikes.
In the second set, the Blazers made few blocks. The ones they did make were at the stern hand of Zhang. Whitman won the last three points of the set with three consecutive kills.
The tide turned in Blair's favor in the third set. Whitman started making returning and setting mistakes. One highlight of the set was when junior Adrian Cretzu served up a six point run, Mott called a time out and then Blair continued its streak for a few more points. Another highlight occured late in the set when Zhu set to Cal, who faced her and waited until the last possible moment before lifting his arms and tipping the ball backwards into open Viking court.
The Blazers rushed to a 15-10 lead in the fourth set and never let up. In the middle of the set, Zhang fired four consecutive, successful spikes.
The fifth set consisted of back and forth points after an early Viking lead. To conclude a long volley with the score at 4-9, Zhang faked as if he was going to make a kill with his arm cocked back, but switched midair into knocking a successful tip. The end of the set wasn't nearly as favorable for Blair. In the last point, Whitman hit the ball fast and deep, the crowd screamed, a Blazer sends the ball behind her towards the ceiling with the save and, with no other Blazer able to get to it, the ball fell the floor with a loud slap.
One of the five graduating players, Koerper was also one of few Blazers disappointed with how the game and season turned out for Coed Volleyball. "No one comes to practice," said Koerper. "Next season depends all on their commitment."
Most Blazers thought the team played well. "It was good that we came back like that," said Zhu. "We had lost to them earlier in the season and we were missing Tina today. We dug a lot of hard balls." Unfortunately, co-captain Tina Yang did not attend because of an out-of-state science competition.
Mott and Koerper agree that the team didn't live up their potential, but Mott does not deem effort as an issue. "They worked their butts off," exclaimed Mott. "At the beginning I didn't really know how good the team was. Once we saw their talent – they beat Gaithersburg, who only lost two games all season, and Wootton with an amazing comeback – I began to think they would go far."
"Overall, I'm really proud of them. They showed a lot of heart," said Mott loudly, breaking the silence of the last few seconds of contemplation. He expects a good turn out next year. "We have a young team and will have a lot of returning players but might lose all of the boys."
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