Blazers tame Titans in second-round playoffs


May 10, 2004, midnight | By Kristina Yang | 15 years, 3 months ago

Boys' volleyball triumphs over Einstein with 3-0 win


MAY 10, NELSON H. KOBREN MEMORIAL GYMNASIUM—

After winning its first playoff game in five years on May 6, the third-seeded boys' volleyball team entered quarterfinals confident about their chances against the 11th-seeded Einstein Titans. Despite the absence of Coach JJ Rathnam, who is away on business in Miami, the Blazers managed to pull a solid win over the Titans, defeating Einstein 25-22, 25-21 and 25-15 in just three quick sets and securing Blair's spot in the semifinal round of playoffs.

From the start, the Blazers were clearly a cut above the Titans, who struggled to organize its offense and had great difficulty returning Blair's attacks. The Blazers scored nine points off Einstein offensive mistakes in the first match alone, including several failed tips by the Titans' setter and two missed hits. By contrast, the Blazers played a much stronger offensive game, attacking to and from all areas of the court and sending Einstein's defense scrambling to save nearly every play. Junior James Lee led the Blazers with 18 of its cumulative 34 kills through all three games, while senior middle hitter Bailey Zhang also scored several excellent quick hits.

However, Blair's offense also experienced its share of difficulties, repeating its recurring tendency to score the majority of its opponent's points for them through the Blazers' own mistakes. Early in the first game, Einstein scored two consecutive points off identical Blair tips that landed just outside the line, then went on to capture nine more rallies due to a variety of Blazer offensive errors ranging from missed hits to netting. The Blazers carried twice in the second game as well, missing two serves and sending five hits out or into the net.

Blair did not even out its hitting until the third match, but by that time, both teams had begun upping the intensity of the game with increased hitting power and defensive reflexes. While the Blazers killed or aced its first seven points of the match, Einstein soon improved its blocking to allow fewer Blair attacks to sail through the Titans' first line of defense. Einstein's middle hitter also began receiving sets in every rotation and emerged as the fundamental attacking force on his team, scoring five kills and keeping Blair's defense on its toes with several other well-placed attacks.

Unfortunately for the Titans, however, a powerful hitter without the support of an excellent defensive squad cannot hope to carry a team to victory, and Blair's offensive superiority became apparent as the match progressed. After Einstein scored two points in a row due to missed Blair hits, the Blazers refocused and went on an eight-point run, as junior Paul Wong's steady serves and the entire team's offensive power kept Einstein fumbling to stay on its feet. Senior Sam Wen gave Blair an additional edge with three consecutive aces, and though the Blazers fumbled for a few points after Wen lost his serve, a kill by Lee and a block by junior Randolph Li quickly clinched Blair's victory.

According to senior setter and co-captain Tim Yang, the Blazers "had a gutsy performance considering [they] were without a coach." While Yang lauded the Blazers' offense, he gave special note to Blair's defense for its consistent performance throughout the evening. "We had awesome passing and serving," he explained, emphasizing that key defensive players such as Wen and freshman Jay Chang played a crucial role in Blair's win. "The back row scooped up everything; nothing got past them."

The Blazers will have to continue playing such tight, controlled defense and clean up its hitting if it wants to continue advancing in the playoffs: its next game will be hosted on Wednesday, May 12 by Churchill, the 13-1 county powerhouse that served Blair one of its two losses this season.



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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 »

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