Blair teams look promising
In 2005, the Blair football team posted a winning record and had one of the most encouraging seasons in recent memory. Led by quarterback/runningback Ross Williams, the team hopes to take another step forward and make a run at the elusive playoffs after barely missing out a year ago. After posting a solid 6-4 record, the Blazers, under the guidance of coach Jeffrey Seals, look to make a serious push towards respectability in a tough division (4A East) that includes an impressive Sherwood team that delivered a 48 to 6 thrashing the previous season. Last year's team MVP, the versatile Jacob Wade, a star at running back and linebacker, was lost to graduation, but Williams is expected to step up into a feature role, taking snaps under center and in the backfield. Although the season was ended in a heartbreaking loss that crushing all playoff hopes, last year offered great promise. Senior tackle Scott Lavon anchors a solid offensive line and seniors Roger Brown and Steve Jiminez look to contribute on both sides of the ball, as linebackers and running backs. In spite of the blowouts, the Blazers managed to score more points than they allowed last year, scoring a respectable 18.1 points per game themselves. The opening kickoff is September 8, when Blair football takes on Richard Montgomery with hopes of avenging the loss in last year's season opener. With an offense looking to highlight the talents of Williams and a stout defense in tow, the Blazers are looking sharp, with what is sure to be an exciting year ahead.
With a record breaking season under their belt, girl's soccer, led by coach Robert Gibb, begin this year with high expectations brought on by a plethora of returning players, including captains Devon Madison and Danielle Peck. After reaching the regional semifinals for the first time in Blair history, the lady Blazers look to build upon last year's tremendous success with hopes of another deep run into the playoffs and avenge the heartbreaking loss to Quince Orchard. Despite the loss of second team all-state selection Sophie Esparza to graduation, the team returns a great deal of experience, players who according to Gibb are "expected to do well." With a schedule loaded with vital games including an early season showdown with rival Sherwood and no easy games on tap, the season figures to be challenging, but Gibb is optimistic about their prospects. With the addition of a new offensive system, he hopes to create a balanced, multidimensional attack capable of scoring often with contributions from many different players, looking especially to highlight the scoring abilities of Peck and sophomore Annie Worden. Anchored by senior goalkeeper Maggie Sullivan, the defense looks solid as well, hoping to build out of the back and control the tempo of the game. By utilizing depth and flexibility, Gibb strives to duplicate last year's success while going even further, and with such a dynamic team, a division title, elusive thus far in the current format, is not out of the question. Gibb cited fan support from the stands as an integral part of last year's success and encourages the same from students and staff this year. "We're going to be an exciting team," he said. "We'll be worth watching."
Blair boy's soccer, following a promising 11-5 season that included a respectable playoff run, has high expectations for the coming season. Despite the loss of last year's captains Adam McLeod and Mac Kpadeh to graduation, hope springs eternal with an impressive crop of current seniors, including new captains Alec McLean, Alex Asare-Wassow, Mike Worden and Josh Zipin. Coach Adrian Baez is optimistic about this team, hoping to build upon last year's success by utilizing strength in the midfield and an exceptionally solid bench. According to Baez, the roster lacks clear-cut all stars, but the team is overall very talented, with skill spread out over several positions and spilling over into a deep bench more than capable of relieving the starters. Although this year's schedule is free of perennial powerhouses like Churchill or Whitman, Baez knows that their league is quite competitive. Nevertheless, with effort and dedication, he hopes for a successful year, possibly including a division title and a playoff run. "We'll work very hard and stay focused," said Baez. "I'm shooting for winning the division." With depth at numerous positions and at least three Division 1 college scholarships on board, Baez's seemingly lofty goals are more than attainable.
Coming off of a 7-5 record last year, the tennis team still remains in Division I. It does not appear it will be an easy task to maintain the same record, but the squad has improving players with potential. After the seniors graduated, the first three singles positions, as well as the first doubles pair and half of both the second and third doubles pairs are vacant. "I think this year's team has got some pretty big shoes to fill; we graduated some phenomenal players last year, and we'll certainly miss them," said Jessica Cutler, the team's captain. "That said, we definitely have some amazing talent this year, and I'm really optimistic that we'll be able to pull together and make Blair proud." Cutler, Bonnie Ding, Priyanka Gokhale and Jasleen Salwan are stepping up to take the singles positions, marking a major change in the line up. Cutler, Ding and Gokhale, who played doubles last year, will need to adjust to their strategies to suit their new positions to be successful. Unfortunately, Sneha Kannan has been battling ankle injuries since the beginning of last season, but the team has hopes that she will be able to play in a few key matches. Churchill and Walter Johnson will be Blair's toughest opponents, and will require more preparation. Blair's success in will depend the player's ability to analyze their mistakes. "It's crucial to be able to step back during a match and analyze your performance, what you're doing well, and when you can change to get better results," said Cutler. The team is looking to build a new, strong foundation for the younger players who will carry the team in future.
This year's varsity cross-country team will face stiffer competition than in the past, as they have been upgraded to Division II from last year. The squad is hoping to improve on their 14 out of 23 finish in the county championships on the boy's side, and the 9 out of 23 finish on the girl's side. In their hope of improvement, the runners have not been idle over summer break. "The core runners of our team have been running intense mileage this summer and will be peaking at 60 miles a week in the coming days," said Emanuel Waktola, one of the four captains. Waktola feels as though the keys to success lie in the athletes' own health and determination. "Keeping healthy and injury free will be the key to success. Everyone will need to keep training and running to their full potential. "We have a grueling schedule with at least one meet every week so it is important for the team to a keep focused," explained Waktola.
On the girl's side, Ashlyn Sinclair, Halsey Sinclair and Johanna Gretschel are the top athletes. Illness has restricted Gretschel's summer training, but she is working hard to get back in the flow of running. Tuynh Nguyen and Waktola will lead the improving boy's side. The team hopes that Nilan Schnure, the strong runner who is recovering from a stress fracture during outdoor track last year, will be able to add his efforts in the coming weeks. Waktola has placed his confidence in the improvement of several other athletes. "Frank Wen, Paul Ishimoto and Mike Willems have shown great improvement and are expected to do well," said Waktola.
Varsity volleyball is looking to continue their upward trend; the team went from a 1-13 record two years ago to 7-7 this past year. This year's schedule will be extremely difficult schedule, including match-ups against Gaithersburg, Watkins Mill, Magruder, Sherwood, BCC and Seneca Valley. The squad has an excellent chance in improving their second round tournament finish, as no key seniors have been lost. All players are relatively healthy; middle Alice Fan has a minor bruise that should heal quickly. Captains Julie Zhu and Julie Brice will be vital to the team as setters. Wendolyn Quintanilla and Felicia Olawuni are looking strong as outside hitters. The team needs to work on creating an effective offense and honing its outstanding defense from last year in order to remain a Division I team. Blair's volleyball future is especially bright with the talented freshmen arrivals. Many have played on the Tacoma Park Devils, a club junior Olympic team.
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