Blair boys' volleyball team drops to fifth seed on Senior Night
MAY 4, NELSON H. KOBREN MEMORIAL GYMNASIUM -
The Blair boys' volleyball team fell to Sherwood's undefeated Warriors on Senior Night, ending its season with two losses this week and locking in a fifth seed spot for the county playoffs. Despite Blair's gallant efforts, the Sherwood Warriors emerged victorious 14-16 in the fifth game after a deadlock at 16-25, 25-23, 18-25 and 25-23. The final two points broke the tie and stripped the hopeful Blazers of a win that would have dethroned the Warriors from an undefeated record.
Before this week, the boys' volleyball team was also undefeated and still had a chance for the top seed position in the county. But the Blazers fell to Rockville on Monday, which lowered their county seeding and enabled Sherwood to take first place. When both teams faced off on the court on Friday, Blair was determined to beat Sherwood – not only because Sherwood is the top-ranked team, but also because both teams have faced off for the county championship title for the past two years, which has birthed a friendly rivalry between the top two boys' volleyball teams in the county.
The Blazers were missing experienced senior hitter Allen Zhang and was replaced with junior Anton Do. Although Do stepped up to the challenge well, a little of Zhang's extra zing on the offensive end would have at least earned Blair a few more easy points.
Blair's sophomore setter, Willy Li, started the first game of the match with a serve that returned, and fell, on the Blair side after a weak block. Until the score was 11-13, both teams traded off points based on a dynamic exchange of points earned from an exhilarating exchange of strong hits, continuous blocks and crafty placement.
But an ensuing series of shoddy tips that sent the ball out and tentative blocks plagued the Blazers as the gap between points widened. Senior co-captain Jay Chang's strong finishes and some of senior co-captain Max Wolf's spectacularly well-placed tips were not enough to save the Blazers as the first game wound down with a 16-25 Sherwood win.
The Blazers returned for the second game with renewed energy and determination. Although the game had a disjointed start, as both teams made errors, Sherwood and Blair showcased their versatile talent through fast-paced volleys, a responsive defense and strong serves. Chang and Wolf continued to dominate Blair's offense with steady kills that constantly kept the defending Warriors on their toes.
When Sherwood had a slight lead at 5-8, Chang launched three serves that threw the Warriors off while energizing the Blazers. Blair began to gain confidence and Sherwood fell short after been ridden with miscommunication and ineffective hits, which made enough of a difference to land the Blazers a win for the second game, 25-23.
Fresh determination enabled Blair to have a strong start on the third game. But an early lead and Blair's challenging offense was not enough to compensate for the following careless errors in serving and hitting. Sherwood capitalized on the score, keeping more of a consistency while Blair, error-stricken, essential dug its own grave with these mistakes. The third game, after a drastic turn of the tide, ended 18-25.
The fourth game again started with a strong Blair lead, primarily due to Do's serving streak that upped the Blazers four to five points to a scoring peak at 17-9. The Blazers' energy was elevated, and in top form, it seemed as though they could do no wrong. Because of most of Blair's mistakes, Sherwood was able to catch up to, but not overcome, the Blazers. Both teams had won two games and had to venture into a fifth game, which has happened frequently these past two years.
The fifth game was very much like the initial exchange between errors and (fewer) displays of offensive wit. Unleashing their intensity through the play, both teams inched along as though in a three-legged race – occasionally stumbling, sometimes fluid, but always moving forward. At 14-13, Blair only needed to push one point in order to grab the game, but a serve out gave Sherwood the ball. After the Blazers got two calls on two technicalities, the two points piled on the Sherwood end of the scoreboard and concluded the fifth game, 14-16.
Despite the defeat, coach Sang Ahn, after the game, expressed optimism for the future. "We were missing Allen but Anton stepped up and he has a lot of potential. This was the first time we saw this good of a home crowd. We'll probably see Sherwood earlier than finals, but I think we can beat them the next game around."
Wolf pointed out that Blair has lost to Sherwood the past two years in the regular season, but returned in the playoffs to beat them in the championship game.
Senior Tim He added, "I really liked the support – it helped us a lot in our energy level and support level. We did step up to play the best team in the county and we played really well."
Pete Siarkas, Sherwood's coach, said "It was a great game and it's probably going to be the championship game in two weeks. I think they really dug in but we got our serves and they didn't – that was a big factor."
Playoffs for the Blair boys' volleyball team will begin Tuesday, May 8 at Blair against Wootton.
Payal Patnaik. Payal's bad habits include compulsive apologizing, and....sorry. More »