Beasts Fall in the Playoffs After a Flawless Regular Season

The Stuyvesant boys’ varsity volleyball team end a historic season with a second-round loss at home to the eventual champions.

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The playoff dreams of the Beasts, Stuyvesant’s boys’ varsity volleyball team, came to an end on Friday the 13 after a close game at home against the eventual league champions, the James Madison Knights. Their playoff loss was the only “stain” on what was otherwise a flawless season.

Led by Coach Choubaralian and senior co-captains Sirui Pu, Elio Torres, and Raymond Dong, the Beasts were able to play their first full season since the pandemic-induced hiatus. Despite the team’s lack of experience due to the two-year pause, the Beasts were still highly motivated heading into the season. “Given that even the senior players hardly had a full year of volleyball behind them or had only experienced a freshman-year season, we knew we would have to work hard to become a cohesive and successful team. Yet, I think that underdog mentality drove us to work harder,” Torres said. The Beasts would go undefeated in the Manhattan A West league, topping their league with a 10-0 record, all without dropping a single set.

Though the Beasts had missed two seasons, they had a lot of outside experience. “While our teammates had little practice on the Stuyvesant team, we did have four club players who actively play for travel teams like VBA and NYC Impact. Alongside our knowledgeable coach, they often brought club-level advice into our practices, which made us a better team in our league,” Torres said. Dong also credited the team’s clear objectives, good chemistry, and tenacity as reasons behind the Beasts’ success during the season.

Though the Beasts dominated their opposition, winning every league match without losing a single set, their season still had its fair share of hurdles. Most notably, the Beasts were plagued by unforeseen circumstances toward the end of the season. Several starting members experienced injuries from rotator cuffs to ankles to knuckles. At one point, Coach Choubaralian and a few other players were even out with COVID.

The absence of key players was most evident in the Beasts’ last and most challenging match of their season against the High School for Math, Science and Engineering. Forced to dig deep against their talented opponents, the Beasts were able to get some momentum early and eventually pull out a victory, winning the first set 25-14 and barely edging out their opponents to take the second set 25-23. “The team was able to quickly adapt throughout the whole season with certain people stepping up to fill in certain roles,” said Dong.

The Beasts entered the playoffs as the eighth seed and first locked horns with the ninth-seeded Knights. Going up against a team with a D1 commit and a noteworthy win against the second-seeded Fort Hamilton Tigers, the Beasts knew they would need to produce something special to win the match. However, the Beasts were at a severe disadvantage entering the game, as they were forced to play with an adjusted lineup due to injuries.

Nevertheless, the Beasts came into the match swinging, initially keeping pace with the Knights. After a sequence of weak serves, however, they ultimately fell behind. “We had around seven missed serves in the first set, which is more than we’ve had in a game all season,” Torres said. The Beasts ended up dropping the first set 20-25, and they allowed their opponents to carry the winning momentum into their second match, falling behind 10-20. With their backs against the wall, the Beasts rallied and mounted a comeback. Off of senior Jing Cao’s serve, the Beasts won eight service points in a row, bringing the game to 18-20. Despite their valiant efforts, the Beasts would give up five more points to lose the second set 21-25. The Knights would go on to beat the first, second, and fourth-seeded teams to win the PSAL championship.

Though their season ended shorter than they would have preferred, the Beasts celebrated their successful season, laughing together and making signs for the five departing seniors. “It was the ideal end to a season of determination and spirit,” remarked Torres.

With five critical players leaving, the Beasts have work to do before next season. “There will be certain changes in the structure of the team, practices, tryouts, and much more, but I’m sure they’ll be just fine. I think the team is going to be in good hands,” said Dong. The accomplishments the Beasts have achieved this season show that they will continue to be a reckoning force in years to come.