Despite a Promising Season, The Peglegs Fall Short in the Playoffs

Despite a promising season, the Peglegs, Stuyvesant’s girls’ table tennis team, were unable to defeat Flushing Campus in the first round of the playoffs, ending their 2018 season prematurely.

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Silence swept the room as all eyes stared at the weightless ball hitting the floor, obliterating the Peglegs’ hopes of reaching the next round of the playoffs. In the stressful last table tennis singles match of the season, time came to a halt as the Peglegs, Stuyvesant’s girls’ table tennis team, lost to Flushing Campus in their third playoff game on January 15, marking a premature end to their season.

The Peglegs had a promising season as they headed into the first round of the playoffs with an 8-2 record. After their recent decisive 4-1, 5-0, and 4-1 victories against Tottenville, Susan Wagner, and Seward Park Campus, respectively, the team moved onto the playoffs with confidence. Having lost only to longtime fierce rival Millennium High School twice, they were placed as the eighth overall seed out of 16 teams in Division I. Therefore, they played against the ninth overall seed, Flushing Campus. Flushing Campus entered the playoffs with a 9-3 record, having lost to Benjamin N. Cardozo High School, Francis Lewis, and John Bowne. The first doubles featured the following: freshman Madison Cheng, sophomore Shiho Watanabe, and the third singles junior Kasey Chan, who beat their opponents in their respective matches. The second doubles substitute team, comprising of juniors Clara Lam and Xiaoqi Zhao and second singles senior and co-captain Allison Eg, was defeated, despite its valiant efforts. The round ended with a close 3-2 first singles match loss, played by first singles senior and co-captain Katherine Lee. The Peglegs were missing two starters in this crucial first playoff game, and though their second doubles team members Lam and Zhao are both capable players, they lacked enough experience playing together. “By the time they began to play better, it was already too late, and we lost that match,” coach Emilio Nieves said.

Despite recording encouraging wins in eight out of 11 games of the season, the Peglegs have been facing issues relating to the organization of the team. Coach Nieves and the captains encountered various challenges when organizing the doubles lineup. “Out of those 11 matches, in only two matches did we have the entire starting lineup play,” Nieves said. The resulting multiple necessary changes in the doubles lineup created instability, since doubles matches require chemistry between the players. In contrast with the beginning of the season—when both first and second doubles won all their matches except for the two against Millennium—the pairing inconsistencies hindered the Peglegs’ performance later on in the season. In their game against Seward Park Campus, the last of the season before the playoffs, the doubles teams struggled, while the singles secured the Peglegs’ 3-2 win. “It is much harder to win, because it requires coordination and footwork. One player has to get out of the way for the other, and our team’s footwork isn’t the best,” Eng said. The varying doubles lineup caused a lack of coordination, which might have made the teams’ mindset uncertain during the tough playoff game. The shortage of chemistry between doubles players was also due to a lack of practicing together. Due to conflicting schedules and factors such as sickness and outside commitments, the pairs “barely practiced together,” Eng said.

As for what is next to come for the Peglegs, one of the main issues for the upcoming season will be replacing seniors and captains Katherine Lee and Allison Eng, who play first and second singles. Both girls have held these positions and have been captains for two consecutive years, making it difficult to find players to fill their shoes. Eng believes that one of the top contenders for this spot is junior Kasey Chan, who played third singles during this season. Coach Nieves said, “Losing Katherine Lee and Allison Eng will be a big loss in terms of both leadership and playing ability. Right now, the only certainty is that Kasey Chan should move up to number one singles…She improved in all areas and should be able to handle the position. I don’t have to worry about her.” Chan has “improved tremendously over the summer for the past two years. She has just been improving ever since, and we’ve just been seeing her get better and better,” Eng said. During their last game of the season, Chan was the only singles player to defeat her opponent. In a close 3-2 match, Chan was able to come out at the top against Flushing junior Chen Xiang Wang, after losing the first match. With this in mind, Chan is set to be one of the most vital players on the team next season.

Juniors Clara Lam and Xiaoqi Zhao have also stepped up this season, according to Eng. Both players have joined the team this season, but will most likely be starters next year, having consistently been available to play doubles even with frequent changes in the lineup. Freshman Madison Cheng is another newcomer to the team. She has worked her way to become first doubles. In the beginning of the season, Coach Emilio Nieves said that Cheng has “impressed enough to be a starter on the number one doubles. She will also fill in when one of the singles starters is unavailable.” Cheng’s experience on the Girls’ Varsity Tennis team has also helped her with skills that translate into table tennis. Cheng plays an important role on the team, and with great expectations from Nieves and Eng alike, she will continue to do so in the future.

Looking forward to next season, the Peglegs will need to overcome major deficits to their starting lineup, with both Eng and Lee having been influential players on the team since their sophomore years. They have had an especially big influence in guiding the team under the new leadership of Coach Nieves, who began coaching the team this year. He believes that “there’s no reason why [the Peglegs] can’t become a powerhouse in table tennis,” she said. Furthermore, the doubles teams will need to be able to work together and gain more chemistry with one another if the Peglegs are to advance further in the playoffs next season.