The Beasts Throughout the Years
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With the 2020 PSAL season sadly canceled, the Stuyvesant boys’ varsity volleyball team, the Beasts, could not compete for another thrilling season as they have done in years past. Since Vasken Choubaralian took the coaching position in 2009, the Beasts have had a record of 107-13 and have gone to the playoffs every year, with the exception of the 2014 season. The Beasts have also performed well at countless tournaments and scrimmages against other top teams in New York. The team’s enjoyable yet disciplined environment has been in place for years, and is the main reason behind the team’s consistent success. New faces come every year, looking to improve their own skills, while returners continue to represent their school on the court.
Flashback 10 years ago to the 2008-2009 season when Choubaralian took over the role of former coach Chingyao Pan: the Beasts went undefeated during the regular season but later lost in the first round of the playoffs. As years went by, the team saw successful regular seasons, and in 2011, they achieved their first playoff win under Choubaralian. Six years after that, the Beasts made it to the third round of playoffs, the farthest they have ever gotten, ultimately falling to the eventual runner-up, Fort Hamilton.
The 2018 campaign was especially significant—thanks to the great individual and team performances of the seniors that year. The combination of outside hitter Shun Bitar (‘18) and setter Ray Jones (‘18), among other players, helped propel the Beasts to another record season after making it to the third playoff round only a year prior. The unique plays of this team can still be found online in their highlight videos and vlogs from the season. Due to unfortunate circumstances, some players were ineligible for the playoffs that season, and though the younger players had stepped up, their efforts were insufficient against Francis Lewis High School. Still, the 2018 season is stitched in the team’s memory thanks to their countless trick plays and hard work, which have set an example for future years to come.
Outside of PSAL, the Beasts have participated in invitational tournaments that many schools host throughout the season. One of Choubaralian’s fondest memories stems from a tournament match against another top team, Staten Island Technical High School. In a close game, the server for Stuyvesant had confused the boundaries of the court and had accidentally served inside the line, leading to a point for their rivals. Instead of harping on this mistake, Choubaralian said, “It was a rough moment, but we all laughed about it for a long time after,” a testament to the close relationships formed every year on the team. Despite the occasional misstep, the Beasts have been successful at these tournaments, earning second place twice in three close sets.
Choubaralian has seen it all with the boys’ volleyball team, “from a player sacrificing his body by running into a wall to save a ball to fun and loud team dinners to players being ineligible for big playoff matches to lost voices from screaming at tournaments all day,” he said. But what he is most proud of is the growth of each of his players, not only as athletes but also as people. Every year, the Stuyvesant varsity volleyball teams host a charity tournament at Stuyvesant to raise money for equipment, tournaments, and other team purchases. Because this year’s money would not be used, one of the players approached Choubaralian about donating the money to an organization combating the pandemic. Choubaralian said, “I was blown away, and every season, someone does something of the like that makes me feel more comfortable about the future.”
Wins and losses often define a team for those who are unaware of the hard work and dedication each member puts in to represent their school and each other. However, the close bonds formed between the players as they grow as athletes and team members are much more important. This theme is echoed every season, and though this year’s seniors, Tim Stansberry, William Zeng, Joseph Lee, and Sebastian Delangle, will not be able to fly above the net to make impossible digs look easy, their impact and guidance for younger players have put the team in a better position for the future in terms of both work ethic and team spirit.