Seasoned Hitmen Eyeing Next Title Run

The boys’ tennis team will look to continue its dominance that led to a third place finish last year as it hopes to become the city champion this year.

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By Stefan Engquist

In what had been a hard-fought match on both sides, Brooklyn Technical High School pulled out a 3-2 victory against the Hitmen, Stuyvesant’s boys’ tennis team, last May. As the two teams walked off the court, however, tension remained as the schools argued over sportsmanship and disputed calls. Despite some bad blood with Brooklyn Tech, Stuyvesant still managed to place third in the city and established itself as one of the best in all five boroughs. This year, the team will be looking to re-affirm itself as a formidable opponent and hopefully defeat Brooklyn Tech’s team.

Last season, Stuyvesant went 5-5 in the Bronx/Manhattan A-Division, finishing third behind Bronx High School of Science (8-2) and Beacon High School (9-1)—the eventual PSAL champion. Led by Kevin Yan (‘16), who was first doubles along with then-junior Brandon Huang, the team went deep into the playoffs as the fifth seed. “It was our best season in quite a few years; we ended up placing third in the city after a difficult season, and we made it to semifinals,” said senior and co-captain Zachary Wakefield. “Unfortunately, [we were] knocked out by Brooklyn Tech.”

While the Hitmen lost Yan, one of their starting players, both returning and new players have the ability to step up. “We have a few talented players coming to the team this year,” Wakefield said. This talent and depth will be needed, as the team tends to have the most difficulty winning its doubles and third singles matches. On multiple occasions, Stuyvesant was tied 2-2 with another team, only to lose its final match in a split-set tiebreaker.

The Hitmen will also be getting help in the form of young players. “We were fortunate enough to get a few new freshmen that [can make] our team better,” junior Nicholas Pustilnik said.

Freshman Sujay Sharma is one of the newly recruited Hitmen. Currently ranked top ten in New York in his age division, Sharma has proved his continual dedication to the sport even after encountering Stuyvesant’s strenuous workload. “I train at John McEnroe Tennis Academy Sportime Syosset four days a week, and I play a lot of United States Tennis Association tournaments and national [tournaments],” Sharma said. He is optimistic for the coming season and is confident the Hitmen will go far. “I really wanted to come here and make us a championship team with the amount of talent we have,” he said. The rookie has also had previous experience playing against many of Stuyvesant’s rival schools’ top players, which is an asset in helping the team target others’ weaknesses. Emitting a positive energy, Sharma is confident in helping jumpstart the team.

One key problem with the team last year was a lack of experience. With only two players graduating—Yan and substitute Philip Chun—the team did not have many seniors. With the majority of that team set to return, players are hoping for a better year. “We have only gotten better, and combined with the right mentality, we can go just as far, if not even farther this year,” Pustilnik said. Pustilnik went 4-4 last year as first singles and hopes to remain a major part of the team. Others, including junior Derek Lung (second singles, 4-3 record last year) and senior Julian Neuman (second doubles, 5-4 record last year), will all be back and ready for the new season.

Even with all the returnees, no position is set in stone, and each of last year’s starters will have to prove that he is capable again. Senior and co-captain Brandon Huang, who has proven to be instrumental to the team’s success, holding a starting spot since freshman year, will need to become more vocal and lead the boys to success. Fellow co-captain Wakefield believes Huang stepping up could lead the team to the caliber it needs to dominate. “I would like to see him be more assertive on the court,” Wakefield said. From clearing up any false calls to holding more rigorous practices as a team, the co-captains will need to show the others how to play the game the right way if the team wants to improve from last year’s run.

Last year’s Brooklyn Technical High School game perpetuated a rivalry for Stuyvesant that will feed the intensity of these teams’ matchups. “It was the most watched game we have had. It was very intense; both of our teams wanted a win so badly,” Wakefield said. This year, with a team that is largely made up of the same core of players, they can see a championship-level roster forming. However, the team is taking nothing for granted. “We have been putting in countless hours of both tennis and conditioning,” Pustilnik said. “Hopefully, our games reflect all the work we’ve put in.” Even though the team will not play Brooklyn Tech in the regular season, everyone is hoping for a rematch in the playoffs. Once there, each and every player will have his eyes set on revenge and a title.