The Goats Set Their Eyes on the Playoffs

Currently sitting second in their division, the Goats work night and day to minimize mistakes and hone their skills to finally get their hands on the first-place trophy.

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A ping pong ball, the size of a small egg, is hit at 25 mph, and one is expected to hit it back with precise accuracy onto a small table. The Goats, Stuyvesant’s boys’ varsity table tennis team, play this intense, difficult sport as they look to bounce back this season after their 2022 City Championship loss to Brooklyn Tech. The Goats plan to overcome any obstacles (and nets) to score that winning point and lift the trophy.

Coming into this season, the Goats faced many challenges—the foremost of which was COVID. Many players missed practices because of COVID, which impacted the team negatively. “We couldn’t practice as much, and we got really rusty,” senior and co-captain Ian Denis said. However, the team overcame this obstacle with the incorporation of new players. This year, the team has brought in seven new faces. Of these new members, freshman Andrew Tang has been doing exceptionally well. Despite being new to the team, he already has his spot as second singles and has won 10 out of 13 sets this season. Andrew Tang and other promising new players bring new energy to the team, boosting their confidence and allowing them to overcome the obstacle that was COVID.

With great reinforcements, the Goats are off to a strong start as they began their season with three quick consecutive wins. Against BCAM High School and the Institute for Collaborative Education, the team gained free points due to early forfeits. The Goats faced their first official match against Graphics Campus on December 5. The team dominated in all five matches, ending each with a 3-0 sweep. However, this streak quickly ended when they faced off against their long-time division rivals and reigning champions, the Brooklyn Tech Engineers. The Goats had a shaky start as their first singles player, senior and co-captain Max Yenlee, lost by a close margin of 10-12 in the first two matches and 11-3 in the final match, giving the Engineers a point. Things started to look good when Andrew Tang won his first match with a score of 11-8. However, the Engineers came back and won the next two sets with close scores of 11-9 and 11-10. Andrew Tang needed to win the fourth set to keep the game going, but he narrowly lost the match by four points. Up 2-0, the Engineers seized their momentum and handed the Goats their first defeat of the season. The Goats were able to quickly bounce back with two massive wins against BCAM and Graphics Campus, with the doubles teams, in particular, crushing their opponents. Then came the big match of the season against the John Jay Campus Jaguars. The Goats had to win this game to continue their rising momentum into the playoffs.

This opportunity for the Goats turned out to be a wake-up call for the team. The match started off with senior and co-captain Jialin Yang suffering a 3-0 loss, putting the Goats on their heels. Things turned for the worse when the first doubles team also lost their match 3-0 without scoring above seven in a single game. This caused all the attention to go to the third singles match. With a first-set defeat of 7-11, senior Tedd Lee needed to bounce back in order to keep the team’s hopes alive. He did just that with an 11-7 win in the second set, but things went downhill soon, as Lee lost the next two sets, both with scores of 4-11. With three losses, the Goats had suffered their second official defeat, but the games were not over just yet. Yenlee put up a strong fight against his first singles matchup, eventually losing the final match with a margin of just two points. The last game, second doubles, seemed like a tough matchup when sophomores Jackie Zeng and Brandon Tang were substituted in due to an absence of starters. Yet both put in a great performance to claim the first set with an 11-4 win. After that, the game went into total chaos as both teams took a set until the score was 2-2 in the fourth set. The duo played the game with determination and fought to the end. With the last smash of the game, the duo ended up winning 11-9. The final score was a 4-1 loss.

Despite the defeat, the team used the experience to learn from their mistakes. One main reason they had struggled was due to the absence of starting players. “This is a huge obstacle for the team. When starters don’t show up to games due to academic reasons, it messes up the whole lineup,” Coach Manuel Simon said. With two starting players, sophomore Vedant Kothari and freshman Andrew Tang, having missed the game against John Jay Campus, the team had to fill those holes with other members like Zeng and Brandon Tang. Despite the sophomores’ relative inexperience with official matches, they pulled off a great win to get the Goats on the scoreboard.

The problem was with the other lineups. Lee had to play third singles despite being a doubles player. “If one person is not here, the rest of the team has to play someone harder than who they normally play,” Yenlee said.

The team still showed their chemistry and teamwork throughout the game. “Our greatest strength is having a great team bond. Everyone on our team is not only teammates, but friends outside of the team, so that is what makes us work so well together during the game,” Denis said. The unity that this team has is what makes it so successful. “This team brings a sense of family; just watching them grow and develop and push each other on is what makes this team so special,” Simon said.

In addition to their outstanding chemistry, the Goats also boast an intense practice routine. “Usually, our practice routine is to practice one specific shot, whether it is backhand, forehand, or serve, to maximize our skills, then we play practice games against each other,” Yenlee said. This routine emphasizes techniques that are commonly employed in-game. Since table tennis is such a sensitive sport, the players need to maximize their techniques, and this is where the intense training comes in.

With the addition of the new members, some of the more experienced members are trying to coach and introduce them to the sport and the team. “We spend a lot of time helping the new members get better since a lot of times, they are completely new to the game. We try to make sure that the new members get to know everyone on the team so that they don’t feel shy,” Yenlee said. These new recruits show how desperate the team is to go far in the season this year after coming just shy of championships last season. Currently sitting second in their division, the Goats are consistently working to minimize mistakes and hone their skills to finally get their hands on the first-place trophy. “Our final goal is the City Championship, and this year, we’re going to win it,” Simon said. After they win the City Championship, just like the start and end of every game, the Goats hope to say their final “one, two, three, Stuy!”