Spring Sports Preview: 2011

March 18, 2011, 8:28 p.m. | 10 years, 8 months ago

by Claire Sleigh

Photo: Having graduated only two seniors last year, the softball team remains strong at its core and hopes to go far into playoffs.

After a devastatingly close season last year, Blair's varsity softball team hopes to rebound and take States, a goal Coach Lewis Hoelman believes is realistic. Only two players graduated from varsity last year, leaving the backbone of the team in place. Some of these players have worked with each other on the varsity level for four years now, and according to senior captain Eve Brown, the team has good chemistry together as a whole. Given that last year's team almost made it to States with a record of 15-5, with four of those five games lost by only one run, this more experienced team has a clear shot at the top spot.

The four team captains, seniors Emily Haislip, Blake Morgan-Gamber, Eve Brown and Katlyn Harmison have played together on the varsity team since their freshman year. These four Blazers have each been awarded multiple honors at the county level and are some have been named as top players in Montgomery County. Intensive fall and winter training, returning players and an enthusiastic team can all help propel the softball team to the top of the competition.

The softball team plays its first home opener on Monday, Mar. 21 against Northwest at 7 p.m.

Editors Note: Blake Morgan-Gamber is Features and Sports Editor for Silver Chips Online.

Girls' Lacrosse
by Melodi Anahtar

Photo: According to captain Tessa Mork, the girls' varsity lacrosse team wants to focus on working as a cohesive unit this upcoming season.

After achieving a winning 8-4 record and advancing to the first round of the playoffs last spring, the girls' lacrosse team is ready to do even better this season. This year's team has players of all ages and levels of expertise, according to head coach Michael Horne. "We have a good mix of returning players and newer players, all of whom are ready to carry on the tradition of Blair lacrosse," he said.

The players, both old and new, have been practicing during their pre-season to prepare for the games ahead. "The team and I are excited for the season. They have been working hard and are ready for the season to get underway," Horne said.

The squad is led by senior co-captains Tessa Mork and Ava Wallace, who hope to strengthen the team as a whole and encourage collaboration. "Our goals are to help the team bond and really work as a team, so that on the field we can not have just one person who is better than everyone else," Mork said.

Last year, the team lost its first playoff game to Bethesda-Chevy Chase (B-CC) by a score of 13-9. Since then, the girls have been working on new plays to win more games, according to Mork. Horne agrees that the team is trying to step up its game this year in order to outshine the other teams. "We are always building and improving, from season to season," Horne said. "The level of play is always getting better and we are always trying to stay ahead of our competition."

The girls especially hope to beat the teams that they lost to last year, such as B-CC and Walter Johnson. "Last year the first team that we lost to in the regular season was Walter Johnson so we're hoping to beat them, and B-CC took us out of the playoffs so we definitely want to beat them this year," Mork said.

To keep up with Lady Blazers throughout the season, visit their website.

The girls' lacrosse team plays its first home opener on Thursday, Mar. 24 against Kennedy at 7 p.m.

Editor's Note: Ava Wallace is Editor-in-Chief of Silver Chips Online.

Boys' Lacrosse
by Eli Schwadron
Following a dismal 2-12 season, which ended in a first round playoff loss to Churchill, the boys' lacrosse team is looking to turn things around with first-year head coach Chris Brown at the helm.

Photo: With a new coach, Blair's boys' lacrosse team is looking forward to the new season.

The Blazers will face Whitman in the season opener on Mar. 21. Brown acknowledged the challenge that comes with facing a tough Vikings squad, but he remained optimistic about his team's chances. "They're going to be one of the better teams we play," he said. "If we play good defense and possess the ball, we should be in it."

Look for junior D-Pole Matthew Whitney to anchor the Blazer defense this spring. Junior Shailesh Bogati and senior Paul Kovar will provide speed from the middie line, while senior attack Vishnu Rao will pose a major scoring threat. Three-year varsity goalie Kit Durban will hold down the cage for the Blazers. "We probably have the best athletes in Montgomery County," Whitney said. "But we need to get better stick skills, better fundamentals."

The Blazers are confident in their play thanks to this renewed sense of commitment that was almost non-existent in 2010. "Our discipline is way better than last year," junior Cameron McPherson said. "We feel like we can pull off a winning season." Brown noted that the team lacks depth, another reason why his players must stay extra focused.

Last year spelled disaster for the Blazers due to inexperience, an unlucky string of injuries, and several players quitting. With a new coach and a few fresh faces having been bumped up from JV, the team is hopeful that they can rejuvenate the boys' lacrosse program at Blair with a successful 2011 season. "We have the potential to finish 7-5, maybe even 8-4," Rao said. "But it's going to be hard."

For now, the Blazers are taking it one game at a time. "We still have a ways to go before our season opener," Whitney said.

The boys' lacrosse team plays its first home opener on Monday, Mar. 21 against Whitman at 7 p.m.

Boys' Tennis
by Stella Bartholet
After finishing last year with an impressive 8-3 record, the boys' tennis team is beginning this season with less confidence. Coach David Ngbea said triumphant singles players and strong leadership accounted for much of the team's success last year, but the team has lost five of its 2010 starters.

According to Ngbea, the team will have to adjust in order to keep its Division I status. He hopes to instill a strong sense of competitiveness, since many of the new athletes have never played at a high-school level before. Also, the doubles teams from last year will break up and players will have to adapt to their new partners.

Nevertheless, Ngbea was pleased with the number of people interested in making the tennis team this year. Twenty-nine students showed up for tryouts, and Ngbea said two of the freshman will likely make the singles lineup.

The influx of new players gives senior Ajay Kannan hope for the team's prospects this season. "In the future, after everyone settles down, we will have a really strong and comfortable team," he said.

The match against Quince Orchard on Mar. 24 will likely indicate how well the team will do this season, Ngbea said, since Quince Orchard is often at the bottom of Division I. "If we get by them in a strong fashion, then we should be competitive," he said.

The boys' tennis team plays its first home opener on Tuesday, Mar. 22 against Northwood at 3:30 p.m.

Boys' Volleyball
by Myla Sapp
After last year's somewhat successful season, the boys' varsity volleyball team plans to do bigger and better things on the court this Spring. Junior Andy Zhang believes that the team has all the keys that they need to accomplish their goals. "We made it all the way to the county semifinals last year and lost to Sherwood," he said. "This time we plan to win the county championship."

This spring, the Blazers will return All-Gazette outside hitter Robert Huang to the court, along with sophomore leader Ricci Huang and junior Zhang. They gain several new additions to the team, including junior Rick Narcisse, whose leaping experience from the basketball court will be highly appreciated. Head Coach Chris Liang is optimistic about Blair's wide array of players this season. "We have a good mix of new and experienced players that will each have something different to contribute," he said.

Liang feels that winning the 4A west county championship has to be a complete team effort since the Blazers will be facing three challenging teams. "Wotton, Richard Montgomery and Walter Johnson are always competitive teams," he said. "But if we work hard, this should still be an exciting season."

The boys' volleyball team plays its first home opener on Monday, Mar. 21 against Northwood at 7 p.m.

Co-ed Volleyball
by Sebastian Medina-Tayac
Ending last season with a disappointing record (6-6) and a postseason loss to boulevard rival Northwood, Blair's new co-ed volleyball team is ready to spike opponents with a blend of experience and strong athleticism.

Photo: The Co-ed volleyball team is one of two Blair spring sports to start the season off with a new coach.

Having lost a large number of powerful seniors and some undedicated players from last season, the team this year brought in a balanced number of both generally inexperienced - yet highly athletic - boys and returning experienced girls.

The greatest challenge new coach Chris Klien sees for this season will be bringing these two qualities together into one team. "We're going to have to fit athleticism with knowledge of the game," he said.

Several of the girls agree that they can integrate the team effectively and get the less experienced players up to speed by working on communication and passing.

Co-captain Nika Lilley, out for the next week-and-a-half on an injury, says that the incoming players are athletic and fast learners.

Both Klien and co-captain Libby Wei see huge potential in new setters freshman Dominique Pope and sophomore Lizzie Liu. Other returning strong players to watch, according to Klien, are juniors Rachel Chen, Lilley and Wei.

But a loss in a casual scrimmage with B-CC showed that the team still has a ways to go to reach the cohesiveness they need to face traditional powerhouses Poolesville and Magruder in games coming up on Mar. 25 and Apr. 28, respectively. However, Klien and Chen are extremely confident about the team's potential this season. "If we can put it all together, we're going to be hard to beat," Klien says. "If the team stays focused, we have the potential to win it all."

The co-ed volleyball team plays its first home opener on Monday, Mar. 21 against Northwood at 5:15 p.m.

by Allison Daitch
Blair gymnastics is bringing in the new season with a young team and higher expectations. Although they lost seven graduating seniors, the Lady Blazers made up for their loss by gaining six new gymnasts who are ready to compete. "All of the girls returned and we made up for our losses," coach Hillary Wynn said. "Some of the girls even got better from last year."

Wynn is excited for the upcoming season and hopes to improve after placing second in counties last season. "My expectations are to top what we did last year and make sure that all our new girls have routines," Wynn said. Among the new additions to the team, Wynn points out sophomore Kayla McCaw as a most notable rising newcomer. McCaw will benefit from the strong leadership of most valuable players senior Sophie Seidell and senior co-captain Taylor Smith.

Although Wynn has high hopes for the season, she anticipates difficulty from the addition of Whitman to the Blazers' list of competitors. Other than new competition, Wynn expects to see nothing out of the ordinary for the season and is thrilled with how well the gymnasts look. "Everyone is healthy and came back looking stronger and better," Wynn said.

Once the new members are acclimated and all the girls are back in routine, Wynn hopes to see a successful season for the Lady Blazers. "I'm very excited for the year," Wynn says. "I think it's going to be a good season."

The gymnastics team will have its first home opener on Tuesday, Apr. 12 against Walter Johnson at 5 p.m.

by Liv Jacobson

Photo: Despite a relatively small team this year, varsity baseball hopes to utilize new talent like juniors and sophomores coming up from JV to supplement the team.

Coming off of last years losing 5-15 record, the varsity baseball team has high hopes for improvement. Although the team has only twelve varsity players this season, they are full of strong athletes and talented players to maintain a competitive team. Head coach John MacDonald finds that despite their lack of depth, his team has potential for success.

With a short roster, however, the key to having a good season is to remain healthy. Senior co-captain and pitcher Lucas Babinec and senior shortstop Nevin Brown, both key players in past seasons, are currently recovering from injuries. With fewer players to substitute, MacDonald fears any additional injuries that could impact the season. "We're one injury away from being a bad team," he said.

One of the most promising changes for this season is the introduction of new varsity talent. Juniors Tucker Canary, Richard Griner and sophomore Tray Brown, all rising from the junior varsity team, show serious potential. According to MacDonald, Canary and Griner are both strong left-handed hitters and accomplished JV pitchers, and Brown is a very talented catcher. "[Brown] plays with a lot of confidence and could help us defensively" MacDonald said. Freshman starter Neil Gahart also shows a lot of potential as a pitcher and a hitter, and will be a player to look out for throughout his Blair baseball career.

Although there is no shortage of new talent, a critical element of this team's success will be the performance of their returning players. "It is very key for us that our senior leaders play well," MacDonald said.

With both new and returning players, the outlook seems hopeful. MacDonald, however, does not want to make assumptions. "I shy away from predictions, since so much of our success of failure depends on our opponents," he said.

The baseball team plays its first home opener on Monday, Mar. 21 against Northwest at 7 p.m.

Tags: Seasonal Season
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