Blazers serve Jaguars


March 23, 2005, midnight | By Anthony Glynn | 15 years, 10 months ago

Coed volleyball beats Northwest in straight sets


MARCH 23, NELSON H. KOBREN MEMORIAL GYMNASIUM—

From the first serve that seemed to float to that last kill that, well, ended the match, the Blazers showed grace and control. With a 3-0 victory against the Northwest Jaguars, the coed volleyball team achieved tonight what was just out of their reach at the season opener on Monday.

Two days ago, Blair lost 25-23, 22-25, 9-25, 25-19, 11-15 to Gaithersburg, the defending county champions. During that match, the Blazers started strong but missed returns and made weak serves in third set. They took back control in the fourth set and were up 8-5 in the fifth set when the Blazers started having trouble with serving again. Noting that they "played well as a team" and passing and hustling remained consistently precise and energetic throughout the game, coach John Mott was proud of Blair's performance. "I am very optimistic that things will be good for us this year," Mott said this morning. "Today, Northwest visits and we hope to get this thing going." And going they got.

The gym was completely silent going into the first set and freshman Julie Zhu's collected composure effectively hid the nervousness she afterward admitted to having felt. She delivered a gentle, direct serve to center court. Northwest returned the ball. Senior co-captain Zack Koerper then was set the ball and made a kill that passed two blockers and hit on the back line at the feet of two Northwest defenders. A spectator screamed, "They got served;" the referee blew his whistle, the buzzer went off and silence swept through the room, as it did after every point today, as celebration and criticism subsided in place of growing anticipation.

In play, the Blazers on the court were unusually quiet and the Jaguars were unusually loud. The contrasting audibility served contrasting purposes. During plays, the Northwest captain screamed orders, which created more of a distraction to the Jaguars than notification - and, after Blair points, denigrations, which once caused this reporter to drop his pen in fright and surprise. Blazer co-captain senior Tina Yang, though, was the epitome of leadership, understanding and equanimity, and while the Jaguars were losing easily preventable points by confusion and bad spacing, the Blazers communicated possession and court coverage with few words. Blair won the first set 25-15.

Zhu started the second set with the same steady serves she exhibited in the first set. The Blazers jumped to 6-1 lead. Northwest initiated a hustle and made a slight comeback. Sophomore Carl Burton was then rotated into the front line with Koerper and the pair made kill after kill. They were so skilled at spiking that most times they made them with overpasses instead of waiting for sets. Before long, Blair was up 20-7, its only problem being with players stepping in front of the line, especially while tipping. Northwest was skilled at tipping and did so frequently in the second set. The Blazers quickly adapted. They started expecting the slower balls and compacted their defense closer to the net.

The third set was the most difficult one for the Blazers. For the first time in the match, the Jaguars took the lead. They first led 7-6, then 10-7, and later 24-23. At 24-23, a Jaguar served the ball into the net. Blair served, Northwest returned, Blair blocked, Blair set and Blazer senior Agathe Nyake killed. Blair served, Northwest returned, Blair blocked, Blair set and Blazer Allen Zhang killed. Blair won.

Koerper was satisfied with the team's performance even though his "expectations are pretty high for team for the rest of the season," but both he and Mott stressed the need for the team to continue to hit accurate and effective serves. "If we get our serves, we'll get 99 percent of the points," said Koerper. Mott said that the team has a slight height deficiency and must build on the Blazers' strong serves to compensate.

According to Mott, nearly every player saw playing time. Many of the subs were put in during the third set, causing some confusion. During the third set, Mott simultaneously sent in two players who had never played a competitive volleyball game in their lives. Zhu explained that the starting six players knew each other well and were able to judge each other's movements well enough to make plays because they primarily practiced together. Zhu, who played all of Monday and today, said that the starters need to work more with the other players at practice to develop a better overall team.

Coed volleyball next plays Damascus at Blair on April 5 at 3:30 p.m.



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