Spring sports review

May 27, 2009, midnight | By Fran Djoukeng Rose Wynn | 12 years, 12 months ago

The 2008-2009 spring sports seasons has officially ended with all Blair varsity teams having concluded their participation in playoffs. Many teams have achieved more wins in the playoff rounds than in previous seasons and collectively share a positive and aggressive outlook for next year. Some seniors also garnered recognition for exceptional performances and successful individual records throughout their sports careers. Promising athletes for next year, including rising sophomores and juniors, are visible due to exceptional athleticism during the season.

by Rose Wynn
Gymnastics finished their 3-2 season with a flourish. For the first time, the team placed second at the county competition only 11 points under their primary competitor Bethesda Chevy Chase High School (BCC). Because of their success, the entire team advanced to the state competition for the first time, and competed as one of the two best teams in the county. With an incredible display of skill and agility, the girls narrowed their gap behind BCC significantly for this second competition, and just barely missed first place by four points. Coach Hillary Wynn was elated by the team's record-breaking accomplishments. "We did fantastic," she beamed. "We did even better than we ever thought possible."

Photo: Senior Anna Hadfield demonstrates strength, speed, agility and tight form on bars during the county competition. Picture courtesy of www.digitalsports.com.

As a whole, gymnastics demonstrated remarkable dedication and achievement throughout the season. "We were consistent in all events," Wynn said proudly. She also emphasized that several team members increased their scores by several points as the season progressed. Talent from sophomore Taylor Smith, senior Anna Hadfield, sophomore Claire Hoffman and sophomore Sophie Sidell brought the team numerous victories. "All the girls did a great job," Wynn said.

As the season winds down, Wynn has high hopes for next year's team. "We hope to do as well as this year," she said. Wynn also wants the girls to incorporate more challenging technique into their routines because judges next year will be evaluating skills based on their difficulty. "We have to upgrade our skills so they're worth more when judges review them next year," Wynn said. While it is important that the girls challenge themselves, Wynn also hopes that they will remember the basics of sharp form. "We need to earn points by sticking our landings and dismounts in every event," she said. "And we need to always be polished and clean."

Varsity Baseball
by Katie Sint
The varsity baseball team played hard throughout the season to end on a strong 9-11 record. The Blazers made up for the loss of four seniors with a roster of talented underclassmen and many returning players. Relying on a strong underclassmen roster and the powerhouse efforts of seniors Brady Ettinger and Neil Corran, the team boasted a fierce pitching staff and offense.

Headed by senior co-captains David Fegley and Josh Gordon, the team built on their skills and experience from previous seasons. The Blazers advanced to the second round of playoffs before being ousted in a 3-1 loss to Quince Orchard. Regardless of the loss, the Blazers exhibited a mean offense, with junior Sammy Denenberg pitching a no-hitter until the sixth inning. "We had a good pitching staff with [sophomore] Peirce Marston and Sammy," junior catcher Ben Hukill said.

Photo: Seniors David Fegley and Josh Gordon stand prepared to catch any ball hit their way.  Photo courtesy of Julia Seiger.

Towards the end of the season, the seniors stepped up their game to provide even more runs and victories for the team. Heavy hits and big plays from seniors Ettinger, Corran, Gordon, Fegley, Greg Friedman and Giulian Garruba gave the team an undeniable advantage over their opponents. "We were able to put up a fight in all except one game," Denenberg said.

The team will be losing six valuable seniors to graduation but can look to rising seniors and co-captains Alex Egber and Denenberg to lead them to more victories. Denenberg is positive that the team will be able to step up next year. "We are losing six seniors, and most of them played a big role that were going to have to fill somehow," he said. "All the rest of us are playing good summer ball and will improve.”

Varsity Softball
by Julia Wynn
Varsity softball concluded a triumphant 13-5 season with three strong playoff games that left the team only two runs away from state championships. The players' final loss to Sherwood 5-4 in the regional semifinal was especially disappointing considering their initial 4-1 lead as far as the sixth inning. The previous playoff games against Whitman and Northwest ended with Blazer victories of 5-0 and 7-4, respectively. Head Coach Louis Hoelman cited these final games as some of the strongest of the season. "We played our best at the end of the year," he noticed.

Although the team suffered five defeats in regular games, four of these were lost by only one point, according to Hoelman, revealing a better team than the record shows. "We're right up there with the best teams in the county," he said.

Photo: Junior Chloe Sheridan makes a quick pass over to senior Rachel Nicholson on first base after a Walter Johnson hitter bunted the ball. Photo courtesy of Julia Seiger.

Despite being a varsity team, softball was comprised of a surprising number of freshmen and sophomores this year. Pitchers sophomore Eve Brown and freshman Samantha Schweickhardt were central in preventing opposing runners from making it to home plate. Sophomore shortstop Blake Morgan-Gamber performed solid offensive and defensive plays throughout the season. Hoelman gave credit to the developing maturity of the players for the impressive final games. "We're very young so the hard work we did throughout the season helped us peak at the right time for playoffs," he said.

Part of that maturity grew as a result of encouragement from dedicated seniors, according to Schweickhardt. "The captains really helped us bond," she said. "We were able to build off one another…it made the team much stronger."

With state playoffs just barely out of reach this year, Hoelman has high hopes that next year's players will win the type of close game that spoiled Blair's chance at states this season. "We can learn from that so we can make our goal of making it to states," Hoelman said.

Varsity Boys' Lacrosse
by David Tao
The boys' varsity lacrosse team fought hard this season, landing some impressive wins, including their first victory over arch-rival Springbrook in five years. They ended the regular season with a 7-6 regular season record but subsequently fell to Bethesda Chevy-Chase in the first round of the playoffs. "Looking back on the season, we probably ended up where we expected to be," head coach Bob Gibb said.

Blair's defense was one of the team's main concerns moving into the season, but despite the fact that several key defensive players graduated in 2008, Blair held its own, anchored by senior co-captain Andy Holmes and supported by juniors Lukas Petersen and Brandon Jones. "We had some inexperience [defensively] and not a lot of depth, but all-in-all I thought they came together pretty well," Gibb said. The team's starting goalie, sophomore Kit Durban, was new to the varsity level and also filled the role well. "[Durban] had a great year for a tenth grader," Gibb said. "It's exciting to know that we've got him for two more years."

Photo: Junior Johni Meeks carries the ball down the field after winning a face off. Photo courtesy of Molly Brune.

Gibb recognizes that as a team, the Blazers will be heavily impacted by this year's senior graduations, losing all three of its co-captains: offensemen Mike Mozer and Eliot Gold as well as defenseman Holmes. "We didn't lose a lot of seniors, but we lost a lot of good seniors," Gibb said. To deal with this exodus, the team will be forced to improve drastically in the off-season. "For us to be as competitive next year as we were this year, those kids need to go out and work," Gibb added. "If they come back at the same level as they left, it's going to be a long year for us."

Next year, the Blazers will continue to see Durban in net, and can expect Petersen and Jones to step into larger defensive roles. The team will also rely on sophomore Guodong Fu and juniors Otis Banwell and Drew Byron to provide a crucial offensive edge.

Varsity Girls' Lacrosse
by Deepa Chellappa
The varsity girls' lacrosse team fell 17-14 in the first round of playoffs on May 8 to county powerhouse Walt Whitman High School in what Coach Michael Horne described as a close, tough game. Despite their disappointing performance during playoffs, the team finished the season with a 6-5 record and has high hopes for next year.

"We're excited to see the team step up next year," Horne said. "We have strong leadership coming in. They understand what it takes to win."

Photo: Junior Sarah Frank swiftly takes the ball upfield during the team's April 16 game against Paint Branch.  Photo courtesy of Alex Joseph.

Junior Emily Hedrick, an incoming captain for next year, said that the team faced challenging teams this season. "We had some tough losses to teams that we were really hoping to beat, but for the most part we gave every team we played tough competition," she said. "I guess you could say we didn't go down without a fight." Horne agreed with Hedrick, explaining that the team played admirably throughout the season. "We lost some tough games but I'm very proud," he said. "I wouldn't trade them for any other team in the county."

Horne especially praised senior Susie Branson, who is the first Blazer lacrosse player to have been recruited for a Division 1 college. Branson, who scored a record-setting 67 goals during 12 games this season and was named as a player to watch in the Gazette, will be playing for Presbyterian College in the fall. "She had a ridiculous year," Horne said.

Next year, the team is setting their sights high, as Horne explained the girls always do. "It's always state championships for us," he said. "Hopefully, we'll get there."

Boys Volleyball
by Fran Djoukeng
A heart-breaking but hard-fought county championship loss to Richard Montgomery High School halted the boy's varsity volleyball team's outstanding record of 14-2. Having advanced the farthest in competitions this year, the team was proud to have won over their rivals, Sherwood High School, early in the playoffs.

Still, four seniors on the team who were not only power hitters but starters are moving on from the team. The remaining teammates have learned some pointers and hope to emulate their athletic effort. "The seniors were a great inspiration for the entire time but we're still getting new and fresh talent each year, so we don't have to concentrate so much on our losses," junior Peter Qiao said.

Photo: Sophomore Robert Huang leaps to action as he battles for the point. Photo courtesy of Alex Joseph.

Many senior members on the team dominated the court and brought large doses of technique, agility and perseverance. Heavy-hitters and seniors Nic Vujcic and Willy Li were constant forces on the team and led many matches with formidable kills and acute aces that kept Blair winning some matches with considerable margins.

"The captain's showed great leadership and extremely good serving and they set great examples,” junior Pin-Joe Ko said.

With a strong performance in the playoffs, the rest of the rising athletes have a focused attitude towards a strong finish in next years' competitions.

"We have a lot of hope for a strong season next year especially if we work on serving, because it killed us during the Richard Montgomery game,” Qiao said.

Overall, the younger athletes hope to improve on their faulty areas and believe it will translate into solid wins next year. "We played outstanding and we are an overall strong team. I'm very happy with our defense but this year our weakest technique was serve-receive and serve consistency. If we work on that we will have a good chance,” Ko said.

"We need to work on team spirit. All we need to do next year is come together more as a team and with better serving, hopefully, we can take our wins all the way,” Qiao said.

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