No Time to ReLAX
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Coming off a forgettable 2022 season where Stuyvesant’s lacrosse team, the Peglegs, went a lackluster 1-8, expectations could not be any lower. In fact, the team has not had a winning season since before the COVID-19 shutdowns, so it seemed as if the story of this season had already been written. However, every season presents a new opportunity to change the narrative. Still, the question remains: which version of the Peglegs will we see this year?
The 2023 Peglegs boast arguably the most talented squad in recent memory. Though a significant amount of the team has little to no experience with lacrosse, the new recruits are picking up the sport faster than they can pick up a ground ball.
Additionally, the ground-breaking PSAL All-Access Program now allows athletes from public high schools all over Manhattan to suit up for Stuyvesant for the first time in history. The Peglegs have picked up some stars through this program, adding even more talent to an already stacked roster. Senior midfielder Bryce Knight, from Graphics Campus, is the latest addition to the team. A commit to the D3-powerhouse Tufts University, Knight brings talent that goes beyond his two years of experience. Without this program, athletes such as Knight would’ve never had an opportunity to display their talents. “I wouldn’t be able to do anything productive and I wouldn’t be able to play lacrosse,” Knight said when asked about what he would be doing if not playing for Stuyvesant. The chance to play for Stuyvesant will allow him to develop his skills even more before he continues his career at Tufts. Likewise, Coach Michael Tauber sees a bright future for the PSAL All-Access Program. “We’ve benefited a lot from this program; we have two new starters, and I can definitely see it expanding in the future,” he said.
Regardless of the Peglegs’s talent, their lack of experience showed in their first match of the season against the Brooklyn Tech Engineers. For many starters, it was their first time playing an official game of lacrosse. The Peglegs quickly fell behind, giving up seven scores in the first quarter alone to find themselves down 7-0. Entering the second quarter, however, the Peglegs refused to be disheartened by this deficit, rallying to outscore the Engineers 5-2. The momentum shifted in the Peglegs’s favor after senior midfielder Ariel Fuchs laid the boom on an opposing defender, sending him flying to the ground. Fuchs’s display of physicality proved to be a spark for the Peglegs going into the half, instilling a renewed sense of confidence. The second half was a vastly different ball-game, as the Peglegs and Engineers were neck-and-neck. The Peglegs defense was stifling, limiting the Engineers to just four scores in the second half. “We played a much better game after the first half, and it was actually a very contested game,” Tauber said.
Despite their best efforts, the Peglegs were unable to overcome the deficit, losing 13-6. “It was just mental mistakes,” freshman midfielder Matthew Lee said.
The sentiment was echoed by senior defender William Opich. “They’re not a better team; they just outplayed us,” Opich said. The entire team knew that they were better than this. Eager to prove themselves, the Peglegs now set their sights on their next game against the Eagle Academy Eagles, looking to have a stronger defensive showing.
The Peglegs are keen on changing the narrative about Stuyvesant lacrosse this year. The Peglegs are in the midst of a four-year playoff drought––one of the longest of any team in their league. This lack of recent success has left Tauber unfettered: “our goal every year is to improve on the last and make the playoffs,” he said. Despite the Peglegs’s slow start, Tauber’s resolve is unbothered and perhaps even stronger than ever after seeing the promise of his team’s potential. His leadership and poise are that of a coach with years of experience.
Don’t let his “first-year” title fool you—Tauber is no stranger to coaching. With more than a decade of experience coaching Stuyvesant’s football team, it’s safe to say that he knows what he’s doing. “I’ve had the privilege of playing for Coach Tauber for four years since I play on football. It’s just great to have him be my coach one last time,” senior midfielder Ariel Fuchs said.
The Peglegs practice at Pier 40 every day to perfect their craft, honing their skills to become the best versions of themselves. “Even though Coach Tauber might not have as much experience, the way he runs practice is great. He puts us in in-game situations and runs a tight ship around here,” senior attacker Derek Zang said.
The Peglegs have fostered a special environment where development and team chemistry can thrive. “Everyone is so supportive and always willing to help. It’s nice to know that there are other beginners who are, like me, putting in the work,” senior Efe Killic said. At the rate that the Peglegs are improving, there’s no limit to how great they can be.
It’s no secret that the Peglegs are an upperclassmen-heavy team; only seven out of the 25 rostered are underclassmen. When asked about the lack of youth on the team, freshman Matthew Lee, the lone first-year on the Peglegs, said “It just means that we get more attention and more chances to improve.”
The upperclassmen on the Peglegs are devoted to the development of the youth in order to pass the torch. “We’re trying to help [the underclassmen] so that they can take over the team when the seniors graduate,” Zang said. Fledgling Peglegs are in good hands. With nine seniors in key positions graduating, the team’s youth must step up to the challenge of filling those spots. Considering how bright their future is, there’s no reason to believe they can’t.