Feet are Overrated, Anyways

The Dragons have been quietly having one of their most impressive seasons yet.

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Chances are, if you were to ask the average Stuy student about the Dragons, Stuyvesant’s boys’ handball team, you’d receive an answer somewhere along the lines of “That’s a sport?” To keep it real, handball doesn’t receive the same recognition as other sports, such as basketball, football, or soccer. When most people think of handball, they think of a recreational sport that men with graying hair play at their local park on Saturdays. In truth, handball doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. So what motivates the Dragons to commit so much time and effort to the sport? The answer is evident in their play: their love for the game. Handball, as you might guess, is played with one’s hands. How hard can it be to hit a ball against a wall, right? Try maneuvering to reflect balls coming straight at you at speeds of over 50 miles per hour. Try hours of intense play and practice that leave bruises that take days to heal. Then you might begin to understand what the Dragons go through on a daily basis.

The Dragons have quietly been having one of their most impressive seasons yet. Ending the regular season with an impressive 11-1 record, the Dragons are tied with their rivals, the Bronx Science Wolverines, for the best record in the division. Though they suffered a loss against the Wolverines in their season opener in a close 3-2 outing, the Dragons won convincingly 4-1 in the rematch, capping off a 10-game win streak. The Dragons and Wolverines clash every year in something akin to the “El Clásico” of handball. “It’s always fun playing against them because of the friendly trash talk and banter that goes on. Over the last two years, we’ve won three out of the four matchups against them, so I think we have the edge so far,” senior captain Taee Chi said. This level of dominance is nothing new to the Dragons, as they went 11-1 the year before, cementing themselves at the top of the division.

The unsung hero of the Dragons’ success is their coaching staff. Head Coach Emilio Nieves is a seasoned coach with years of experience, predating the COVID-19 shutdowns. “He [has] a strict set of principles that he refuses to cross, and he’s a very no-nonsense type of guy. I think he’s helped our team remain disciplined and focused, and he brings out the best in all of us,” Chi said.

As experienced as Nieves may be, he cannot manage everything. That is why the Dragons have Coach Liu. “Liu joins us for many of our practices and home games. [Though] not officially a coach, Liu won the PSAL championship with Brooklyn Tech when he played, and [he] definitely gave us important tips and strategies and helped us develop as a team,” sophomore captain Daniel Teboul said. Nieves and Liu have created a dynamic coaching tandem, helping the Dragons every step of the way.

As the regular season comes to a close, the Dragons now set their eyes on the playoffs, seeking to go on a deep run and win the elusive PSAL championship. Last year, the Dragons suffered a tough loss against the Bayside High School Commodores, a powerhouse in the Queens III division. Since then, the Dragons have lost two seniors. Though their absences have been felt, the Dragons continue to play on. The rest of the 2022 team has returned, more experienced and hungrier for wins than ever before. “Playoff opponents are on a totally different level compared to division teams, but I can see us getting past the first and maybe second round. As long as all of us show up to play, we can compete against most teams in New York,” Chi said.

However, Teboul has tamed his playoff expectations. “Our team this year has what it takes to make it past the second round. I don't think a shot at the championship is realistic as our team lacks the amount of competition and experience that teams in Brooklyn and Queens have,” Teboul said. Still, the Dragons will play every game to win, despite any doubts that they may have.

Regardless of what happens in this year’s playoffs, the future of the Dragons is undoubtedly bright. The Dragons sport a youthful roster composed of six underclassmen, making up almost half of the 13-man roster. Teboul himself is a sophomore; considering his development from last season, there is a lot of emerging talent that the Dragons can boast. “We have a young team compared to many other schools in our division, which gives me hope that we can continue to grow and get better. With [Teboul], Patrick [Liu], Jacob [Lukose], and Kevin [Zhou] anchoring the team, I can easily see us remaining at the top of our division next year,” Chi said. Given how talented the Dragons are, there’s much reason to believe that the Dragons will give the sport of handball the recognition it deserves.