Rookie Northwood gives Blazers chance to experiment
APRIL 11, NELSON H. KOBREN MEMORIAL GYMNASIUM –
The boys' volleyball team cleared out its opponent in three straight sets for the first time against Northwood, a young team with less experience when compared to two-time champion Blair. The Gladiators' underdevelopment offered the Blair bench first touches of the game ball and Coach Sang Ahn new lineups to explore, especially the team will graduate six seniors. Yet despite the fresh hands and feet on the Blazer court, Blair optimistically defeated the Northwood team, 25-10, 25-20 and 25-17.
The Blazers charged into the first game with four starters and two captains matched against Northwood's sole six players. Co-captains Jay Chang and Max Wolf led the offensive, both hitting a blistering .75 into a weakly fortified Northwood defense. As the score climbed into the double digits thanks to a six point serving run by Wolf, the Gladiators overpassed and shanked their way into deficit. Chang's unstoppable aces dug Northwood deeper into its hole as sophomore Nikola Vujcic, replacing starting outside hitter Willy Marte, pummeled the ball into the deep right corner. Continuous ceiling bumps by the Gladiators and a perfect overpass fed the hungry Wolf to finish the game 25-10.
But the second game was marked by miscommunication and sloppy play. Erratic plays kept the scored tied at 4-4, 5-5, 7-7 and 8-8, ending only with Vujcic's ace and senior Cyril Lan's one-ball slam. Although replacement setter Bryan Huang for star player Willy Li took some time to settle into the game, the sophomore contributed four aces, bringing the score up to 18-12. But nine missed Blair serves kept the Gladiators in the running, as the score climbed to 22-18. This game, unlike the first, was all about the bench; nearly all the boys had gotten a chance to shine, but because they weren't starters, the lineup was confusing. Close shaves to out of rotation calls almost cost Blair precious points, but the Blazers managed to pull through, decisively ending the set with a kill by junior Anton Do 25-20.
Yet the Gladiators didn't give up in the third set as they hustled for a touch on a ball, bringing the score up to 10-10 in the third game despite an early lead by the Blair offense. As the Blazers gained momentum with Lan's shutdown kill on an overpass within the ten-foot line and aces by Li and Wolf, Northwood's consistency with touches lagged and eventually fell to Blair 25-17.
Northwood, already one of the more inexperienced teams in the county since the oldest players are only juniors, lost three players to ineligibility before the game when third quarter report cards came out. Coach Ray Trail would have had to forfeit the game had he not recruited two basketball players on the spot. "For being overmatched, we did pretty good," acknowledged Trail. "It's tough when everyone's brand new."
Ahn seized this opportunity to look ahead to Blair's future, citing the game as "a good chance to get all my subs in, to start the guys who are left here next year a chance to play."
The underclassmen had no qualms about getting their feet wet. Sophomore Pan Wang, who subbed in middle back row, thought "it was fun, especially serving." As if speaking for the whole team, Wang said "Hopefully, I'll keep getting better."
Clutching four wins in their hands, along with Einstein's forfeit due to the absence of a boys' team, the Blazers host Damascus at 5:15 p.m. on Monday, April 23.
Julie Zhu. Despite her innocent appearance, Julie Zhu is a demon at heart. She enjoys fire breathing, serial commas, (,!) and eating the remains of art staffers. Warning: Don't be surprised if you see her busting a move in the 260s hallway. More »