Blair, Damascus aim for third-straight volleyball titles -- Gazette.Net


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Spring volleyball: Players to watch

Boys volleyball

Albert Einstein Titans

Anthony Francisco, Jonas Ventimiglia

Blair Blazers

Ricci Huang, Gabriele Rossetti

Col. Zadok Magruder Colonels

Azevedo Evantanto, Garret Wong

Clarksburg Bobcats

Andrew He, Steven Lee

John F. Kennedy Caveliers

Brian Chen, Vincent Kipygone

Quince Orchard Cougars

Justin Yuen, Will Costa

Richard Montgomery Rockets

Brian Huang, Alexander Bazan

Rockville Rams

Felix Torentino, Ivan Mobley

Sherwood Warriors

Kyle Wisor, McKay Fullmer

Springbrook Blue Devils

Miguel Roa, Jason Jung

Thomas S. Wootton

Paul Malinauskas, Jeffrey Qui

Walter Johnson Wildcats

Ian Morrison, Adam Brami

Watkins Mill Wolverines

George Barsukov, Azeza Odharo

Co-ed volleyball

Albert Einstein Titans

Brie Hardeman, Molly Eam

Bethesda-Chevy Chase Barons

Blair Danies, John Orcutt

Blair Blazers

Simon Amato, Linda Kang

Clarksburg Bobcats

Shannon Skellchock, Andrew Battin

Gaithersburg Trojans

Haley Duff, Janessa Fauntroy

Damascus Hornets

Brandon Palmer, Autumn Jenkins

Paint Branch Panthers

Alexis Anderson, Eric Lopez

Quince Orchard Cougars

Roland Wuu, Daniella Zajac

Rockville Rams

Pranish Katwal, Claudia Najera

Seneca Valley Screaming Eagles

Natalie Speth, Kunal Patel

Springbrook Blue Devils

Julie Dang, Avery Furey

Thomas S. Wootton Patriots

Trey Troxell, Lily McWilliams

Walt Whitman Vikings

Catherine Benz, Adam Joel

Walter Johnson Wildcats

Brigid Morris, Gina Fischetti

With the beginning of the boys volleyball season quickly approaching, Montgomery Blair High School’s team knows it will not be easy to win a third-consecutive county championship.

The loss of five seniors, including Player of the Year Andy Zhang, makes the road more difficult. Still, there is reason to believe the always-powerful Blazers will be in contention for the championship come season’s end.

“We still have a strong squad overall,” Blair coach Chris Liang said. “It’s going to take a lot of hard work, basically. Right now I’m making sure the players haven’t let those two wins go to their heads so they don’t think the third will be easy. I want them to keep working hard. They’re good, but they’re not great.”

Helping Blair is the addition of Gabriele Rossetti, a transfer from Italy who has played volleyball competitively for six years. He will play libero.

Ricci Huang, who moved to outside hitter from libero this season, said defense will be the mainstay for the Blazers.

“We lost the two-time Player of the Year in Andy, so our hitting isn’t as good,” said Huang, who was a first-team All-Gazette selection last year at libero. “But we got Gabriele. He’s more of a defensive player like I am, and he’ll help. So I don’t think we’re not as strong offensively, but we’re stronger defensively.” Liang things Blair’s top competitors will be Thomas S. Wootton (which lost to Blair in last year’s championship game, 3-0), Richard Montgomery, Clarksburg and Wheaton.

Wootton, which had not lost prior to the championship game last year, returns its starting lineup, including junior outside hitter Paul Malinauskas. Also returning is setter Justin Fowler and outside hitter Jeffrey Qui. “Paul Malinausaks, Jeff Qui, they’re all good players, and so they’re probably going to be a top contender,” Huang said.

With a young roster, this might be the year someone knocks Blair off the throne.

“We’re doing OK,” Huang said. “There’s pressure [to win a third title], but I think mostly, half our team is new so it’s more of a growing year. But we still have a chance.”

In co-ed volleyball, Damascus is favored to win its third-straight county title.

Widely considered to be an unpredictable sport by many of the area coaches, the consensus is still that Damascus will have the top squad, led by Loyola (Chicago) signee Brandon Palmer and Delaware signee Autumn Jenkins.

“They both have done consistently well all four years,” Damascus coach Ryan Mullsteff said. “It’s good to have them both back. When they’re out on the court together, they do really well.”

Mullsteff believes the top co-ed teams this season will be Northwest, Sherwood, Poolesville and Gaithersburg.

To win another championship, staying consistent will be the key, Mullsteff said.

“We struggled at the end of the season last year,” he said. “We have to work as a team and not focus on one specific player. If we spread the ball around, I think we’re going to do well.”

cstevens@gazette.net