The Goats Primed for Playoffs
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After losing in a heartbreaking fashion in 2019 to Brooklyn Technical High School at the city championship and losing the 2020 season due to COVID-19, the Goats, Stuyvesant’s boys’ varsity table tennis team, are seeking revenge.
The Goats started working straight away after bringing back returning players and getting two new freshmen from tryouts. “Sometimes, I didn’t have to push the students to practice. The students pushed themselves,” coach Manuel Simon said.
The Goats started out the season strong with a 5-0 sweep against Graphics Campus. Without feeling pressured, the Goats won each match by an average of 11-1. The following week, the Goats kept the pedal to the metal with another sizable sweep against BCAM High School. Beating BCAM by an average of 11-2, the Goats added another win to their undefeated record. However, the Goats’ archrivals, Brooklyn Tech, were also undefeated and tied for first. Only one team would stay undefeated and take the top spot in the rough Central Division after they played each other in the next match.
The first singles match started out with a win, as junior and co-captain Max Yenlee swept Rensong Wang. In the next game, senior and co-captain Cyrus Cursetjee got swept by Brooklyn Tech’s second singles, evening the score 1-1. In the third singles match, it seemed like junior Jialin Yang was going to pull out the win as the score was 2-0, but opponent Zhengrui Zhou made a miraculous comeback and ended up winning 3-2. Despite getting a point on the board first, the Goats were quickly losing momentum, and the match turned in Brooklyn Tech’s favor. Both doubles teams lost, sealing a win for the home team. Ultimately, the 1-4 loss was a learning experience for the Goats, leading to the realization that they had to work harder if they wanted to beat the defending champions in the near future.
Two days later, the Goats had a game against John Jay Campus (Millennium High School). In the last season, the Goats won both matches against John Jay 5-0 and 4-1. This year, John Jay decided that the tables had to turn. The Goats were handed their second loss of the season, which sat them at a record of 4-2. It was a tough start to the season, and they needed to bounce back quickly to gain some momentum before their next matches against Brooklyn Tech and John Jay. “Losing to Millennium at home and away was a big slap in the face,” Cursetjee said.
With two forfeited matches by the Institute for Collaborative Education and another breeze with Graphics Campus, the Goats were at a winning record of 5-2. In their second match with John Jay, the score was tied 2-2, with wins from Cursetjee and the first doubles pair of seniors Krish Gupta and Jack Lubitz. The result of the match went down to the final game of the second doubles pair, senior Michael Lam and the only freshman to crack the starting lineup for the Goats, Vedant Kothari. Though Lam and Kothari won the first game, they dropped the final three, and John Jay beat the Goats 3-2.
Three days later, Stuyvesant swept BCAM yet again, but they did so with more underclassmen, showing the depth and quality of their team. “Most of our starters are seniors, so it’s going to be difficult losing them. We have [Yenlee], who is our best player, so he’ll lead the team well. Otherwise, we have a really deep team and a lot of good players [who] could start in the future. So overall, it’s really exciting, and I think we could win more championships,” Gupta said.
The Goats are currently sitting at third place in the Central Division with a record of 6-3. They have one final game left against Brooklyn Tech. With a ride to the playoffs clinched, it is crucial to get a win against Brooklyn Tech so they are higher seeds in the final championship. The Goats are confident that they have the ability to beat any team, including the defending champions. “It’s going to be a very interesting game between us and Brooklyn Tech. [Though] we lost to them the first time, we have learned through the process and improved our skill sets to a high degree, which is why we don’t fear any opponent from this point on,” Kothari said.
Going into the playoffs, the Goats are mainly focusing on the doubles matches. In both of the matches with John Jay and Brooklyn Tech, the doubles played a significant role. “When the match is close, doubles always ends up being the deciding factor, and so far, the results have been going the wrong way,” Cursetjee said.
The senior duo of Gupta and Lubitz, who have been playing side by side at the number one doubles position, has been a rock solid anchor for the Goats. With Gupta being left-handed and Lubitz being right-handed, they make a perfect combination for a doubles pair and have won five out of their six matches, a team high. They look to be a continuous and solid model for the more inexperienced players and show them how to thrive under pressure in big matches.
Meanwhile, the Goats have been trying different combinations of players in their other doubles position. With Lam having the first spot in the second doubles nailed, the Goats had to decide between Kothari, junior Tedd Lee, and sophomore Caleb Lin to play alongside him. It was important that the Goats made the right call as the second doubles position has been a weakness for the team. Though Lee has played more games this season, the Goats decided to stick with Kothari, considering his recent form and amazing connection with Lam. “Doubles two has always been our wildcard, but we’re going to stick with [Lam] and [Kothari]. They seem to be working well, and with enough training, I am confident they will dominate all their games,” Cursetjee said.
In the final few weeks of preparing for playoffs, the Goats must put every last bit of effort into improving their technique and making sure they are ready. It’s going to be a matter of which team works harder for the championship.
Confidence is building in the Stuyvesant camp as they look to go one better from last season and finish with the city championship. “I think we’re peaking at the right time for playoffs and to compete for another championship,” Gupta said.
Win or lose in the playoffs, the Goats should be proud of what they’ve accomplished throughout the year. Despite major setbacks and COVID-19, the Goats have still found a way to come through with a good seed. “The athletes play their hearts out, and that’s what matters,” Simon said.