Second Loss Against Rivals Reveals Talent Gap in Division

The Peglegs continue to struggle against high levels of competition, making it hard to see improvement.

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Despite consecutive 5-0 wins over Tottenville, Susan Wagner, and Seward Park Campus, the Peglegs, Stuyvesant’s girls’ varsity table tennis team, remain stagnant against their fiercest opponent: Millennium High School. Riding off the momentum of the previous three games, senior and co-captain Allison Eng expressed that the team felt confident heading into the two toughest games left in their season against McKee/Staten Island Technical High School and Millennium High School.

During their three-game win streak, more players were able to gain experience in the absence of many of their starters, who were preoccupied with academic and personal circumstances. Because of this, the team had to adjust their lineup. Some players, such as freshman Madison Cheng, who had to play second singles rather than her normal position on first doubles, had to play different matches than they normally would. In addition, players normally out of the rotation, such as juniors Clara Lam and Divya Chanani, had to step up as substitutes. Despite the absence of key players in those games, the team was dominant, showing the versatility of the young team.

In their away game against McKee/Staten Island Tech, the Peglegs secured their fourth straight win and fifth of the season by a score of 3-2. However, this game was closer than they had anticipated, revealing that the Peglegs have to work on their mentality in order to be successful going forward. According to Eng, half of the battle in away games is simply getting there. After a long trip to Staten Island, the team was mentally and physically exhausted, and it showed in their performance.

During their first match against McKee/Staten Island Tech, the Peglegs had the home advantage, leading to a 4-1 victory. Other than their loss against Millennium, McKee/Staten Island Tech was the only team that had been able to score against them in their most recent match. In the first game, senior and co-captain Katherine Lee easily defeated her opponent, Joy Jung, by a score of 3-0. In their most recent game, however, Lee struggled, resulting in a 3-2 loss. In addition to Lee’s loss, junior Kasey Chen lost to her opponent, freshman Clara Lu. Because of a strategic decision by McKee/Staten Island Tech, Chen had to face a strong third singles’ opponent whereas senior and co-captain Allison Eng faced a weaker second singles’ opponent. This was intended to ensure that McKee/Staten Island Tech would get a point from the third singles match rather than lose both second and third singles.

Nevertheless, thanks to decisive wins by the Peglegs in the doubles matches, they were still able to come away with a win. Sophomores Julianna Yu and Lolita Rozenbaum won the first doubles match, taking three of the four games in their match and bringing great hope to the team for future games and the season at large.

Despite the Peglegs having adjusted to a higher level of competition after facing McKee/Staten Island Tech, Millennium High School, the Peglegs’ rivals and the current front-runners for the Division I title, proved to be too strong. In an away game earlier in the season, the Peglegs lost to Millenium 4-1. In the wake of the blowout loss, the Peglegs lacked confidence heading into their second meeting with Millennium, especially given that the opposition’s first singles player, Yinuo Yang, is ranked by USA Table Tennis. Their lack of confidence was evident throughout the match, as Stuyvesant’s players struggled to stay focused and made a number of silly mistakes. For example, the team’s players took too long to get acclimated to their opponents’ playing styles, which prevented them from playing to the best of their abilities until around the third game of each match. For example, both Eng and Chen did not win the first two games of their matches but were able to defeat their Millennium opponents in the third games. Unfortunately, by the third game, it was too little too late, as Millennium’s players had already capitalized on Stuyvesant’s mistakes. Coach Emilio Nieves agreed, saying, “We tend to get off to slow starts, and this was especially the case against Millenium. They are difficult to defeat as it is, and once we got behind, it was almost impossible to overcome the deficit.”

As the season has progressed, the Peglegs have plateaued in terms of improvement. “I don’t know exactly how we’re gonna improve from here because we’ve been doing drills that have tried to help us improve. We are at a position where we’re trying to practice and improve, and we can beat other teams, but we can’t beat Millennium,” Eng said. The divide between teams in their division that are extremely experienced as opposed to those that are easy to defeat makes it difficult for the team to show improvement. There are teams such as Tottenville and Seward Park that they can effortlessly defeat, so they were not as pressured to improve. On the other hand, Millennium, the PSAL table tennis defending champion, is a strong team made up of only seniors and juniors, who have more experience than the relatively young Peglegs. Compared to the easier teams, Millennium is too big of a step up, such that the Peglegs cannot improve enough to reach that level of competition by playing weaker teams. In order to prepare for these harder matches, Coach Emilio Nieves said he has “scheduled non-league matches against other top teams (Murrow and Bronx Science). [Their] performances against these teams will further show [them] what [they] need to do to guarantee success in the playoffs.” These matches will allow the Peglegs to gain more experience against them without hurting their playoff standing.

The team’s mentality and poise in stressful situations will need to change in order to succeed in the playoffs. This was a problem last season when players would psych themselves out at the end of their matches due to high stakes. In their next three games, the Peglegs will face teams that they have beaten handily in the past, which should present the opportunity to rebuild their confidence in time for the start of the playoffs. Eng and Lee believe that with increased focus and mental preparedness, the team can excel against lower-tier teams, but the overwhelming abilities of Millenium and other playoff contenders such as Brooklyn Technical High School, might be too great of a challenge to overcome at this point in the season.