Hitmen Conclude Memorable Playoffs Run

Though they were unable to achieve wins against Hunter, Beacon, and Bronx Science, the Hitmen, Stuyvesant’s boys’ tennis team, experienced many close and competitive matches powered by a young core of freshmen and sophomores.

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By Thomas Yoo

The advantage was to Staten Island. The match score was 2-1, with freshman James Xu and sophomore Prescott Jain falling in their singles matches to a pair of Staten Island juniors. The deficit was reduced when freshman Frank Shen and junior Angier Lei achieved a 10-6 victory in the second doubles match. Still to play were senior co-captains and doubles partners Aryaman Goenka and James Ly, as well as freshman Stanley Hoo. Staten Island only needed to win one of those matches to advance to the next round of the playoffs and send Stuyvesant’s boys’ tennis team, the Hitmen, back home.

With the playoffs on the line, Hoo delivered a masterful performance, using incredible volleys to defeat Tech’s first singles 10-0. All eyes then turned to the captains, who began their match with double faults and rushed warmups, going down 5-1. But the psychological aspect changed at this point. “We stopped being scared. We wanted this win. And we weren’t going home without it,” Ly said.

Ly took the lead, using slams and poaches to lessen the deficit. Goenka picked up his serve game, and the team started to win point after point. All of a sudden, the scores were level. Though Staten Island would win one more point, the captains commanded the remainder of the game. Just like that, the Hitmen were moving on.

The team went crazy. Ly earned himself the nickname “The Great Wall of China” due to his show-stopping volleys. They were moving into the next round against Hunter College High School. It was going to be a difficult game, with Hunter besting the Hitmen for all of their regular season matches, but the heightened team morale heading into the match gave them a vital boost. The first-seeded Hunter would be the last school the Hitmen faced in the PSAL season, with the Hitmen losing the match 3-2. Though the team’s doubles units and second singles were unable to meet Hunter’s challenge, Hoo delivered a masterful 10-3 win, and Xu took it down to the wire to win his singles match 11-9.

Though they were unable to achieve wins against Hunter, Beacon, and Bronx Science, the Hitmen experienced a memorable season. Overall, their matches were close and competitive. PSAL tennis matches are played in a best-of-five format, in which the team with the most game wins will get the match win, and though the team finished with a 4-6 match record, they had a game differential of +4, meaning that they won four more games than they lost, suggesting that their losses were poorly timed to contribute to their losing record.

Over the course of the season, the team worked hard to improve their net play, consistency, and collected thinking. “At times, we weren’t able to pull off the win from our singles players because it’s less of a tough physical game, but more of a mental game. The freshmen are definitely experiencing some results from this training,” Ly said.

It clearly paid dividends for the young team members. “I know the whole team, and [our] attitude allows for a lot of team support,” Xu said. Energy has been a huge factor for the team, especially when heading into the playoffs in matches where they were numerically disadvantaged. Coach Marvin Autry brought spirit to the squad, with his easygoing “bruh” and “crying emoji” remarks creating a casual environment for the team.

The Hitmen struggled with some roster issues and a few tightly packed schedules, as seen in the match against Staten Island Technical. The team experienced a grueling commute, and it was even more difficult for Hoo, who had to stay at school late that day to complete an AP exam. Some of the players were also marked inactive for a few matches after facing academic struggles, but they put in their best effort to gain the ability to play in the playoff matches.

Overall, the season has been an incredible one for the Hitmen. For Goenka and Ly, the semifinal exit from the PSAL tournament was no small feat. Additionally, they still have the opportunity to claim one last championship through the Mayor’s Cup, a knockout-style tournament that the Hitmen qualified for through their incredible PSAL seed. This record won’t be a one-and-done either, with the Hitmen having a plethora of talent to push them through the next three years. “The freshmen this year have been some of the strongest prospects Stuyvesant has seen in four years,” Ly said. “The Hitmen will leave a lasting legacy on Stuyvesant tennis.”