The Hitmen Fall Short

With the PSAL season over, what comes next for the Hitmen, Stuyvesant’s boys’ tennis team?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

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By Ava Quarles

In Manhattan’s AIII tennis division, the rules are simple—if you can beat Beacon, Hunter, or Bronx Science, you have a shot at securing a playoff seed and maybe even making a finals run. For the past two seasons, the Hitmen, Stuyvesant’s boys’ tennis team, have been on the outside looking in, able to secure wins against the division’s lightweights such as Eleanor Roosevelt and High School of American Studies but struggling against the “big three.” This year, they needed a breakthrough to guarantee them a playoff seed. After acquiring four wins and seven losses across their first 11 matches, a win against either Bronx Science or Hunter would cement a solid playoff seed, and in the Bronx, the boys delivered.

Sophomore Stanley Hoo, winner of the team’s MVP award, led off the anticipatory match against Bronx Science by securing a comfortable win in first singles. Sophomore James Xu dominated his match as well, winning second singles by eight games and putting the Hitmen up two, with only one more match required to decide the tie. However, the Hitmen struggled in the final legs, dropping third singles and first doubles, and leveling the match with one left to play. However, in an abbreviated set, the Hitmen’s second doubles players stepped up, with sophomore Nicholas Oh and freshman Shangxing Chen securing an emphatic 8-4 win to send the Hitmen to the playoffs. “The best game of our season was our win against Bronx Science. It was Nick’s birthday, and he also had the clinching match, and it was our first win against Bronx Science in a couple of years,” sophomore benchwarmer John Jay Wang said.

Though their season concluded with a loss against Hunter, the Hitmen were ready for their first playoff match against Cardozo High School, in which they were heavy favorites. Though the trip up to the Bronx was a struggle for the boys in blue, they delivered, orchestrating a dominant 4-1 victory to move into the second round. “Our team really played to our abilities in the first round of playoffs,” Xu said. Next, they would face off against their archrivals at Hunter, the school that knocked the Hitmen out in last year’s semifinals and that holds two comfortable regular season wins this year against the Hitmen.

Heading back up to Mill Pond, it would take a miracle to get the win. But in small steps, the Hitmen inched towards the next round, with wins from seniors and captains Alex Hagiu and Angier Lei. They needed just one more game to win the match, but losses in the second and third singles matches proved quite costly. “Overall, not the best tennis I’ve seen,” Hoo said. A win at second doubles would bring the Hitmen to back-to-back semifinals. The pressure was on for sophomores Jayden Wang and Nicholas Oh, and it showed. After Jayden Wang committed eight consecutive faults, Hunter went up and it never looked close. Once again, a nail-biter against Hunter knocked the Hitmen out of the playoffs, with Hunter going on to win the PSAL tennis championship.

The team has much to do in the offseason, but morale is high and training could take the Hitmen to a deep playoff run next year. “Between our prodigy, James, all the way to the newer, inexperienced players, our team chemistry is arguably one of the best in Stuyvesant. We have been able to play so much tennis inside and outside of school as a team, and we are always bonded over tennis, school, and other stuff,” John Jay Wang said. Despite having a weaker core than some other teams across the city, their close relationships brought the team together and helped push them to achieve what they have this year. “We’ve especially bonded over the common goal of helping [Xu] become the prodigy he can be,” Jayden Wang said. The team is also planning some exercises to strengthen their bonds. “We have planned to play paintball,” John Jay Wang said.

Overall, the team sees what they are capable of achieving, and the Hitmen hope to punch above their weight next year. Their playful nature is complemented by their coach, Marvin Autry. His energy pushes the team to achieve time and time again. “We really love our coach. We think he is the only coach suitable for us. I couldn’t imagine having anyone other than [Autry],” Xu said. 

All in all, this entourage of Stuyvesant’s finest tennis players will be back next year, hopefully with the power and energy to take down Hunter. Though this season was in some ways disappointing for the players, the team’s high standards are not to be underestimated. Next year, these hitmen will stop at nothing until they take down their targets at Hunter and raise the PSAL trophy in the name of their school.