Spartans Bid Farewell to A Successful Season

The Spartans experienced ups and downs in their undefeated season, and lost in the 2nd round of the playoffs to Fort Hamilton High School.

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The Spartans, Stuyvesant’s boys’ bowling team, went into the season with high expectations. They lived up to them during the regular season, sweeping all 12 of their division games and making it to the playoffs as a 19th overall seed by PSAL, the highest they have ever been.

The Spartans have constantly risen higher in the ranks, going further into the playoffs compared to previous years. Last year, they were ranked 31st, but lost to Tottenville High School from Staten Island. This year, they had an easier path to the playoffs with their 19th seed. However, they got a bye in the first round of the playoffs. Ultimately, the Spartans’ season culminated in a do-or-die game against Fort Hamilton High School during the second round of the playoffs on November 8, 2017.

From the get-go, the Spartans were thrown off by the lane conditions. The A team players, many of whom have big hook shots, found their hooks difficult to control; the ball curved too early and did not hit the pocket because there was not enough grease applied to the lane before the game.The A team lost 539-586.

However, the B team helped the Spartans bounce back, winning 549-519. Junior LinPeng Chen and senior Jihui Xue led the effort, bowling 145 and 158, respectively. Since their styles are more conventional (straighter throws), they were less affected by the lane conditions. It all came down to the C team, in which Coach Di Wu stacked his four seniors. “It was already pre-determined. We were going to go down with our senior players,” Wu said. Fort Hamilton got an early lead, as their first two players bested senior and co-captain James Lee and Xue. “I wasn't used to the lane when we played the C game. I did badly during the first five frames and just got discouraged,” Xue said.

Fort Hamilton’s Sebastian Bekkaoui then bowled an incredible 203, greatly extending their lead . Though put in a tough spot, senior Wesley Chen delivered and came extremely close to match with a 191. Senior Yong Fei Zheng then won his match, but unfortunately, his score was not high enough to boost the Spartans for the win. In a suspenseful nail-biter, the Spartans lost 594-626.

“Losing in the second round was quite the tragedy,” Lee said. The C team made a true comeback possible, but came short by 32 pins. As a coach, Wu was very proud to see his team really get into the game and battle to the very end. The players kept their mentalities strong and were able to adjust to the lane conditions. Wesley Chen, for example, switched from his custom ball to the bowling alley’s plastic one and tweaked the style on his hook. As a result, he bowled a 191 in the C game compared to his 139 in the A game.

Leading up to the playoffs, the Spartans’ season had been filled with ups and downs. They faced the High School of Art and Design on October 12, 2017. Though the A and B teams won their respective matches and clinched the game (best of three), they won with relatively low pin count totals. Neither the A nor B team broke a 500 total, bowling a 473 and 439, respectively. The Spartans demolished Beacon High School on October 17, 2017; Lee led things off by bowling a 175, and the rest of the A team followed. They won by an impressive total of 601-459, and the B team delivered as well, winning 501 - 390.

However, the Spartans took a dip during a two-game series against the High School of Fashion Industries on October 18 and 19, 2017. A team with many inexperienced players, Fashion Industries did not provide much competition for the Spartans; no player bowled above 100 in either game. The Spartans won, but the majority of the players bowled in the low 100’s, resulting in totals in the low 500’s rather than their usual mid/high 500 totals in the absence of contest. The Spartans’ pin count took a hit and slid in the rankings as a result. “They kind of blur it out when there is no competition. They get stronger when their opponents are stronger,” Wu said. This was a primary example of the Spartans bowling below their full capability despite winning every game. Another difficulty for the Spartans was their composure, which further affected their performances. “Their [players’] mental games got the best of them; my captains hit a wall and lost their confidence,” Wu said. “[When] many players miss a throw or leave a pin, their immediate reaction often carries through to their following throw.”

As a coach, it was been crucial for Wu to keep his team both focused and relaxed during game situations. No matter how much the team struggled, the Spartans were always on the same page regarding their playoff aspirations. However, these expectations set by themselves and Wu have added pressure, affecting their play. “It's been a tougher-than-expected road,” Wu said. “Our team’s biggest issue was that we were inconsistent.”

Despite the inconsistencies and the early playoff exit, the Spartans still have a lot to look forward to for next year. Over the winter off-season, they will continue to stay sharp during their weekly practices at Whitestone Lanes in Queens. While bowling, the same emphasis will be placed on players closing their frames by picking up spares despite the number of pins left after the first throw. Wu will also work to make his players’ hooks more controllable so that they can make in-game adjustments and not get thrown off. While the Spartans have yet to build a solid B team with their newer players, they will definitely have a competitive core group for their A team to replace this year’s seniors. Junior LinPeng Chen, sophomore Samuel Fang, and freshman Eric (Jin Won) Kim will carry the torch.

Wu will say goodbye to the players he has brought up in his four-year coaching career. Xue, Lee, and Zheng have shown heart and dedication to their sport, inspired their teammates, and led the Spartans farther and farther each year. The Spartans have brought a new element to bowling; the captains have become passionate about their game, approaching it with a new level of seriousness and not just as a recreational sport. Their influence and motivation will hopefully continue to guide the Spartans into next year.