Girls’ Table Tennis Sees Smashing Success
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Undefeated city champions. The Peglegs, Stuyvesant’s girls’ table tennis team, had a historic year. The team had completely dominated the regular season, entering the league playoffs as the number one seed. In the competition, the Peglegs went on to win every game 5-0 other than the semi-final round, which they won 4-1. Led by the co-captains senior Sabrina Chen and junior Larissa Yue, the 2021-22 PSAL champions controlled every single game, match, and set.
From the onset of the season, the Peglegs had one goal in mind: a championship banner. Starting in November, coach Emilio Nieves held practices in the cafeteria a few days a week after school in preparation for the Peglegs’ first game against Seward Park High School on November 30. Despite the players’ heavy academic and extracurricular workload, they were dedicated to their goal and expressed full commitment to the team. They put in the work, noticing improvement and enjoying themselves throughout the journey. “The team did a great job of focusing, not on the goal, but on the process of achieving that goal such as practicing hard, dedicating themselves to improving, and enjoying the journey socially together. So not only was it a lot of work, but it was also a lot of fun,” Coach Nieves said in an e-mail interview. And as it turns out, practice indeed makes perfect. In their opening game of the season, the Peglegs blew away their competition 5-0, with five perfect 3-0 matches.
Table tennis games consist of five matches: three singles matches and two doubles. Every match is an opportunity for a point, for a total of five possible points. The matches are best-of-five sets, and in each set, the first player/duo to reach 11 rally points wins. Thus, the Peglegs’ success was no small feat. A perfect game is made up of 15 unanswered set wins, as seen in the team’s season opener.
It’s no surprise that the rest of the season followed in an undefeated fashion: the team was 55-0 in matches through the regular season and a smashing 165-5 in sets. “I don’t think any team has been that dominant since table tennis became a PSAL sport about ten years ago,” said Coach Nieves. Finding no competition in their division, the Peglegs entered the playoffs with their eyes on the prize.
After the first round, Stuyvesant swiftly knocked out their opponents in round two and in the quarterfinals. The following semifinal against Brooklyn Technical High School was the only game in which the Peglegs lost a match, in their second doubles match. However, the team pulled through to win mostly unfazed, proven by their convincing 5-0 victory in the final championship round against the Bronx Science Wolverines. “Brooklyn Tech and Bronx Science definitely were tough opponents, but we ultimately managed to win without too much trouble,” captain Yue said.
One of the Peglegs’ greatest strengths that helped them demolish their competition was their depth as a team. Captains Yue and Chen played second singles and second doubles, respectively. The team’s newest addition, freshman Alyssa Kang, played first singles and commanded this season. An experienced table tennis player, Kang has played competitively since the age of eight and was a forceful leader for the Peglegs. She not only led the team to several victories but also saw her own success as she went on to win the Girls Table Tennis Individual Championship. Beyond that, senior Stella Wang and junior Judy Chen took second place in the Individual Doubles Championship. In addition, the team’s secondary players were able to step up when necessary in division games, even defeating eventual playoff teams. Each and every one of the girls was devoted to the team, willing to put in the effort that was required to secure that banner. Captain Chen said, “I saw how everyone stayed after, even when they weren’t required to.” This 16-woman roster was solid from starters to reserves, which is a reason for their league domination.
Success doesn’t stop here for the reigning champions. Seeing their one-goal method come to fruition means they’ll be back again next year. Coach Nieves said, “If we approach next season the same way we approached this season, there should be another championship banner hanging at the bridge entrance of Stuyvesant.”