Pirates and Wolverines Go Down to the Wire

It was critical for the Pirates to face this level of adversity to get them into the postseason mindset.

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By Tiffany Yu

The Pirates, Stuyvesant’s boys’ swim team, hosted the Bronx Science Wolverines for the second matchup of the season between the two PSAL powerhouses. The undefeated Pirates faced off against the Bronx Science team, which was looking to take revenge for its one and only loss of the season. The two met back in December, when the Pirates picked up a win against the Wolverines by a 13 point margin, their slimmest win margin of the year. But unlike in December, with the playoffs just around the corner, both teams used the meet as an opportunity to test the waters of the level of competition and adversity they are likely to face in the postseason.

As expected, the two teams started off in a full blaze, exchanging leads and switching the momentum early in the highly anticipated matchup. Bronx Science placed first in the 200 yard Medley Relay and the 200-yard Individual Medley. However, the Pirates won the 200-yard freestyle, keeping the Bronx Science lead to just one point (16-15, Bronx Science). The Pirates fought back hard in the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyles and the 100-yard Butterfly, regaining the lead by a slim margin (29-26 Stuyvesant). They then proceeded to forfeit all four points in the diving competition, and the Wolverines sought to capitalize on the momentum.

Both teams took four points in the 500-yard freestyle, with a great first-place effort from senior Nicholas Wen. The Pirates then dominated the 200-yard freestyle relay, capturing what would prove to be nine game-deciding points, with junior Kai Yamamoto leading the charge for the first-place finish and senior and captain Axel Tolpina covering the second-place finish. The two teams would go on to split the points for the 100-yard backstroke, 100-yard breaststroke, and 400-yard freestyle relay. In the end, the Wolverines pushed the Pirates as far as they have been pushed in recent times, coming to a mere seven points short of defeating the defending champions away from home. The highly competitive matchup forced the Pirates to look beyond their talent and previous success and fall back on their core principles of teamwork and team character. “The meets we have against very talented teams such as Bronx Science really highlight our coordination and strength as a unit. [In] the past two years, we have won championships not only with talent but [also with] teamwork. We constantly support one another, and going into playoffs being the closest and most efficient team will beat a talented team any day,” Tolpina said.

It was critical for the Pirates to face this level of adversity to get them into the postseason mindset. Reflecting on the early hole his team fell into, Tolpina said, “By the halfway point of the meet, we were down 5 points, [which was] something that hadn't happened to our team since my freshman year. However, for the back half of the meet, we really pulled together, and almost every person that swam on our side did close to the best time. In such a high pressure meet, every event counted and everybody on the team stepped up to that pressure, which was really amazing to see.” It was crucial for the Pirates to prove to both the competition and themselves that they could perform at a championship level regardless of the score. Coming back from a five point deficit to beat one of the best teams in the city will do a great deal for the confidence and morale of a team that hasn’t been forced to play from behind very often.

Above all, the playoffs remain the bigger picture looming for the defending champions. The final stretch of the season is showing promising signs of good form and improvement throughout the team. Kai Mandelbaum, Andrew Pressman, Elias Ferguson, and Eugene Jeong, according to Tolpina, were a handful of the team members that put their best performances of the season on display against Bronx Science. The Pirates will need to have performances like the ones they had against Bronx Science to defend the throne against the best PSAL Swimming has to offer. Another matchup with the Bronx Science Wolverines wouldn’t be out of the ordinary, and there is no doubt it will prove to be another nail-biting matchup as it almost always has been in the past.