Referees for MCPS high school boys' volleyball matches do not have an easy task. There is just one referee--the R1 on the stand "up top"--with no help from a "down" ref to watch for net, line, and rotation violations. The MCPS athletic budget does not cover the cost for a second referee for the boys' matches as it does for the girls' matches.
Two evenly-matched teams opened the 2012 high school boys season at Montgomery Blair High School gymnasium on Wednesday evening. Wootton won the toss and served the first ball of the first set at 5:08 pm. TWO HOURS LATER a ball landed out-of-bounds to give the Patriots an extended fifth game victory, and a 1-0 season record. Two points separated the winner and loser. Along with the even draw of talent and play, mix in the emotion and intensity of a friendly but fierce rivalry, a close five-set match and.... so what?
Every point counts. The teams know that. The coaches know that. The spectators know that. Every spin of the ball, every jump at the net, every sprawl to the floor, every hit off the block is going to be interpreted, analyzed and scrutinized. Everyone in the gym considers the play, but only one person regulates it objectively.
The referee has a very difficult task.
Blair pulled out in front of the Patriots to win the first two sets and took control of the match with serving, defense and the offensive power of their top players. Wootton rebounded in the third set, taking an early 8-2 lead, and again 22-18, but had to fight off a late Blair rally. Wootton took the fourth set behind the serving and hitting of Paul Malinauskas and Jeffrey Qiu, and the serving and setting of Justin Fowler.
Key blocking by Malinauskas, Qui Fowler and Charles Wang yielded important points for Wootton in set 5. Benjamin Wang, Michael Ip and Cary Chin steadied the Patriot passing and digging game. Henry Zhou and Alan Nyugen joined Malinauskas and Qui on the offensive attack. After coming back from a 2-5 deficit, the Patriots had match point at 14-11 and held back a surging Blazer effort to win set 5, 19-17, and the match as the final ball dropped out of bounds in Wootton's favor.
And the referee signalled the end of the match. And handshakes were delivered with mutual respect among friendly rivals, spectators, and with the objective regulator of the difficult task.
The Patriot's next match is at home against Poolesville on Friday, March 23. First serve is scheduled for 5:15 pm.