Blazers win after five sets of intense rallies
NELSON H. KOBREN GYMNASIUM, Sept. 13 -
In an extremely close game between the girls' varsity volleyball team (2-1) and the Northwood Gladiators (1-2), the Blazers overcame their initial nerves and lack of energy to defeat the Gladiators in five sets. After extended rallies and back-and-forth scoring, the Blazers won with a final score of 25-23, 23-25, 21-25, 26-24, 15-10.
The score remained close for the entire game. Northwood began the fifth set with strong serves that took advantage of the Lady Blazers' miscommunication and defensive errors, giving the Gladiators an initial five-point lead. But Blair caught up with the help of junior co-captain and outside hitter Nika Lilley's powerful attacks. The Blazers managed to tie the game halfway through the set, placing the ball where there were gaps in Northwood's defense. After a long rally, sophomore right back and middle hitter Linda Kang hit the ball onto the Gladiators' side. Northwood was unable to bring the ball back into the court, ending the final set with a score of 15-10 and winning the match.
After a lackluster first three sets, Blair was determined to win the game by doing well in the fourth and fifth set. "After winning the fourth [set] so close, we just came out with lots of fire and intensity," Lilley said. "It's typical for us for the other team to get the lead. We started out slow, but the incredible momentum really pushed us through."
The Gladiators started off the fourth set relying heavily on strong serves and tips to outscore the Blazers. However, the Blazers reacted quickly with long rallies and widespread coverage of the court. Sophomore captain and setter Kathlyn Skolnik as well as Lilley saved the ball multiple times. Along with hits from freshman outside hitter Dominique Pope and junior middle hitter Julia Aikman, Skolnik and Lilley put more points on the scoreboard.
The Gladiators extensively covered the court and repeatedly tipped the ball during the second set. Lilley cut off Northwood's leading streak with a formidable kill that the Gladiators were unable to dig. As the set came to a close, the Gladiators attempted to dig one of Lilley's tips, but the referees called a redo after disagreeing over whether or not the ball had touched the ground before Northwood made contact with the ball. After an intense rally, the Lady Blazers' failure to keep the ball in bounds cost them their final point in the second set.
According to Northwood head coach Ray Trail, the Gladiators' coverage of the court allowed them to score more quickly than Blair. "We were in the right positions more often than wrong," he said. "We were getting points back quicker than Blair."
The Lady Blazers' miscommunication marred the third set. Despite the Gladiators' strong offense in the set, the Lady Blazers were still able to score via strategic placement of the ball and Northwood penalties. Skolnik led the game with consistent jump serves and sets. Still, the Blazers' negative energy from the second set's loss took its toll. "Everyone started internalizing what they did wrong and not getting over it like what you're supposed to do in volleyball," Lilley said.
Aside from losses in the second and third set, the Blazers started off the game with a victory in the first set. Blair played it safe, relying more on sending free balls over the net and less on forceful hitting. The Gladiators responded with solid defense and serve receives.
According to Skolnik, the Blazers won the game by taking risks and not holding back. "We were playing safe, but then we got more comfortable, took chances and went for it," she said. "We played aggressively, found our passion and determination and followed through with it."
Teamwork was instrumental in the Blazers' win. "We're so well bonded together," Blair head coach Christopher Klein said. "We were able to pick each other up. It was a total team effort." As for the Blazers' consistency, Klein acknowledged that there was still room for improvement.
Girls' volleyball will play their next home game Friday, Sept. 24 against Richard Montgomery at 6:30 pm.
Valerie Hu. Valerie Hu loves pasta, beaches and laughing with friends. She draws inspiration from traveling, whether she is in Paris or in Disney World. Like the blog, she appreciates the little things in life. She aspires to one day receive as many candy canes as Glen … More »