The 2021 Beasts’ Beginnings
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Stuyvesant’s boys’ volleyball team, the Beasts, was ready to ride its momentum from a strong 2018-2019 season into more success in the 2019-2020 season. Then, the world stopped. The team took a year-long hiatus, and all the excitement that they had built up for the 2020 season quickly disappeared. Now, the Beasts are looking to make the most out of a difficult situation in 2021 and play for each other in order to have the most successful season possible.
This season, with the ever-changing PSAL rules regarding when and where sports can be played, the Stuyvesant boys’ volleyball team will only have a four game schedule. The divisions have been realigned in order to minimize travel. So, the traditional rivalries that the team had made throughout their time in the Manhattan A West division will have to be put on pause. Instead, the team will look for success in the newly formed Manhattan II division.
The team did lose some important pieces from the 2018-2019 season including the powerful middle hitter Sebastian Delangle and experienced outside hitter William Zeng. Both players were juniors in the 2018-2019 season and were looking to move into leadership roles in the 2019-2020 season. Zeng, a four-year player, compiled 45 kills and 58 digs in the 2018-2019 season. These two stats represent Zeng’s presence as an offensive and defensive player. Zeng’s kills represent his offensive prowess as these hits directly lead to points, and Zeng’s digs, hits that keep the ball from hitting the ground, show his defensive ability. Delangle added 15 kills in the same year.
But, this year, the results are secondary. The team is more focused on providing an escape from the harsh effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and developing confidence in younger players as they step into larger roles during their junior and senior years. Coach Vasken Choubaralian echoed this sentiment. “I just wanted to give team members an opportunity to socialize, be active, and play the sport which they love [and] to give every member of the team an opportunity to play with little concern for the win-loss record.” he said.
The practice time that the reunion of the team provided was essential for making sure skills stayed sharp and improvement continued. Even the seniors, including captain Nicklaus Yao, realized that passing down the culture of the team is one of their most important missions. “We are hoping […] to help build a sense of community and culture for the young and upcoming players,” Yao said.
In particular, Choubaralian was extremely impressed with the strides the team made during the offseason and the play of co-captains Yao and Jun Li Yan. Both players saw limited action as sophomores in the 2018-2019 season. Yao was able to compile four kills while Yan, a libero playing predominantly in the back row, was able to execute three aces and four digs.
Though the team had spent over a year away from each other, the identity of the team remained strong. Most importantly, they enjoy each other’s company. “The team was very eager to get together again. They were ready and willing to practice wherever they could,” Choubaralian said. “I realized that I really missed coaching […] The connections with my team members and seeing their dedication [are] very fulfilling and gratifying. It brings me joy to see them working and playing together again.”