Sticky Fingers Sky Their Way to Playoffs

Stuyvesant’s ultimate frisbee team, the Sticky Fingers, hopes to finish its season strong after facing multiple obstacles from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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As both teams stand at opposite ends after team huddles, Brooklyn Technical High School’s Support team pulls a backhand throw to start the play. The frisbee sails, and Stuyvesant junior Han Zhang waits to receive it while players dart across the field looking for their opponents to cover. Two Stuyvesant players attempt to cut and get open unsuccessfully. Zhang fakes to senior and co-captain Gavin Zhao before turning to senior and co-captain Leo Xiao for help. Xiao takes possession of the disc, and another Stuyvesant player attempts to cut. Senior Sergei Mishchenko goes deep looking for a huck to score, and Xiao launches a forehand throw down the field. A chorus of “up!” erupts from Stuyvesant’s sideline as the team turns to watch the two players at the end running to catch up with the disc. The Brooklyn Tech defender and Mishchenko leap for it in the endzone. In a blur of white and black jerseys, Mishchenko lands and emerges triumphantly with the white disc in hand, securing Stuyvesant’s 13-8 triumph against Brooklyn Tech last month.

The Sticky Fingers, Stuyvesant’s boys’ ultimate frisbee team, has sprung up from a series of challenges, most of them due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, the team was unable to have a proper season since most of its games were canceled, resulting in only one official game and a few scrimmages. Coach Matthew Chin emphasized the impact of the pandemic on the team’s plays. “After COVID, our throws were a little rusty, [and] our cuts were a little rusty, so we’re not in sync with each other as much,” he said.

Xiao agreed, addressing the issues the pandemic brought, specifically geographically. “Our players are stretched across the city, limiting where we could host convenient practices, while the pandemic severely limited our time together as a team. Also unappreciated was our inability to toss after school, which we would do almost every day,” he said in an e-mail interview. However, the players were able to bring back the grit that the team stands for after encouragement from Coach Devon Huang. Huang emphasized the importance of keeping a positive mentality, which proved effective as cheers grew louder at games and players often made impressive completions in the form of layouts (diving to catch or block the disc).

As part of the DiscNY Youth Ultimate Program, which is separate from PSAL, the Sticky Fingers go through COVID-19 screenings prior to games and practices to ensure the players’ safety. Social distancing guidelines were not mandated for vaccinated players but were recommended early on in the season.

With the playoffs approaching, the team hopes to recover from a few losses in their league games against Beacon and Bard and another game against Brooklyn Tech. Scattered among official league games are tournaments and scrimmages. The Sticky Fingers placed third in the 2021 NYC Youth Cup on June 12 among familiar rivals LaGuardia, Brooklyn Tech, Beacon, and Bard, as well as teams outside the city, such as Scarsdale High School. They fell short against Brooklyn Tech after a heated first game of the day that ended in Tech scoring on universe (the last point of the game) from a tie but bounced back to defeat LaGuardia’s mixed, Beacon’s A, and John Jay’s and Scarsdale’s teams.

As for next season, the team aims to maintain the newfound resilience and energy that it has harnessed over the past few games while also expanding the relatively unknown sport to underclassmen. Even with several valuable seniors leaving, Xiao is confident that the rest of the team’s veterans, including junior Ren Kondo and sophomore Samuel Liao, have the experience to maintain the Sticky Fingers legacy. Zhang, ready to step up and lead the team next year, cites that his goals are focused around recruitment and making sure that the team as a whole has as much experience as possible. “I want us to develop as both players and leaders to set a good example for the rookies joining,” Zhang said in an e-mail interview.

Xiao agrees, and he is proud of the energy and camaraderie the team has developed. “I can say with confidence that this team embodies the mantra that we always cheer at the end of practices and games: Team First,” he said.