Goats Paddle Toward Playoffs

Stuyvesant’s boys’ varsity table tennis team look to underclassmen as they take second in their division.

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The Goats, Stuyvesant’s boys varsity table tennis team, have been victorious in seven out of 10 of their scheduled matches over the past month despite significant changes in their roster. The team lost six seniors from last year’s graduating class, four of whom were starters.

The boys also lost their coach, Dr. Feigenbaum, who retired last year. In addition to being a former AP Statistics teacher at Stuyvesant, he coached the entirety of the five years that table tennis has been a PSAL sport. He produced first-place teams for four years in a row (2011-2015), only coming short of the championship last year, as Stuyvesant finished second behind Brooklyn Technical High School. Feigenbaum was arguably invaluable, and losing him presented a huge hole to fill for the team along with new challenges from his absence.

“Losing him and our core players represented a completely different team this year. Tryouts underwent a whole new process,” sophomore and co-captain Nehemiah Yu said. Without Feigenbaum to distinguish new talent and control the roster, it fell upon Yu to choose recruits during tryouts. “This year, my co-captains and I chose most of the new team members based off of their skill and knowledge of the game, but more importantly how they faced the other prospects in game scenarios. We were pretty successful, as the newcomers were truly the best group of players,” Yu said.

Instead of the minimum of five new players, the Goats acquired 12 new players, nine of whom are freshmen. The makeup of the team shifted drastically, as underclassman came to comprise over 80 percent of the team.

This year, Spanish teacher Mañuel Simón was the stand-in head coach. Despite the change in staffing and a new rookie roster, the team was able to finish the season with an impressive 7-3 record.

The Goats started their season out strong, sweeping Jacqueline K. Onassis High School for International Careers 5-0 on November 26. They won every match by an average score of 11-3. With this success on their mind, the boys prepped for their game against Millennium High School just two days later. But once game day arrived, it quickly became one of the most controversial and noteworthy meets of their season.

The game began as tense as ever, with two teams seemingly matched in ability. Stuyvesant’s second and third singles won, but their first singles and second doubles lost. At this point, the match score was 2-2, with first doubles left to determine the victory. The Goats rose to the occasion and battled back from 1-2 in sets to clinch the win… or so it seemed.

“The whole team celebrated as this happened right in front of us,” Yu said. Despite losing 3-2, Millenium challenged the Goats’ roster, deeming it to be inaccurate.

“Even after Millenium physically lost to us, they reported our team for having an unfair roster, accusing us of putting worse players higher on the roster, thereby giving us an unfair advantage. As this unfolded, we were told to have to challenge each other for a completely new roster,” Yu said. Due to this incident, commissioner Janet Miles changed the official score to 4-1 in Millennium's favor, marking Stuyvesant’s first loss of the year.

Bitter tensions arose among the boys toward Millenium; they were outraged at the fact that a win was essentially stolen from them. In their rematch two weeks later on December 10, however, it was Stuyvesant’s turn to take the 4-1 victory.

“In our rematch game, our whole team was determined to beat them. We knew for a fact that we had beaten them with a so-called ‘wrong roster’. After fixing it, we became stronger than ever. We played them again and convincingly swept them, only losing our [second] singles games,” Yu said.

This win was extremely gratifying for the boys; they seized their chance and proved that they were the better team outright, which no technicality could prove otherwise.

Still, because of their official loss in the first Millenium game, Stuyvesant is currently tied for second place with Millennium in the Manhattan Central League. Playoffs will be the place to make a difference on this tie, and the team is continuing to practice hard in anticipation.

Throughout the rest of the season, the Goats routinely defeated Brooklyn Community Arts & Media High School (BCAM) and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis High School for International Careers. However, they faced a challenge in their matches against Brooklyn Technical High School, losing 5-0 on December 3, and again, 4-1, on December 14. If they do succeed in beating Millenium come playoffs, Brooklyn Technical High School will likely remain their primary rival, as the Goats seek to take back the championship.

As their season concluded, the team nearly came full circle, winning their last meet 5-0 again against BCAM High School. This time, however, rookie players had a larger role, with freshmen Cyrus Cursetjee and Krish Gupta winning their doubles match against a junior and sophomore duo on the opposing team.

While the freshmen were not given much playing time in tougher league games compared to upperclassmen, they were given experience against lower-tier teams. In addition, freshmen were thrown into games when starters could not make the game.The players that showed the most commitment through their attendance record were allowed to start in official matches or even play exhibition.

“I feel that moving forward, the team will progress as a whole. We have many fresh prospects that are committed to improving in the game in order to get better and fight for a spot on the starting roster. Many of them have started to get in real, serious training and are taking their game to a whole new level,” Yu said. “Even if we aren’t the strongest team anymore, we still have the most heart.”