Underclassmen Step Up as Hitmen Make Playoffs

Underclassmen carry the Hitmen to the postseason.

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Sophomore Joshua Melamed hit a high, spinning a lob over the head of one of his opponents. The ball struck the hard court just before the baseline and swerved to the left, causing the Eleanor Roosevelt player to completely whiff on his swing. The rest of the Stuyvesant boys’ varsity tennis team also played at a high level, trouncing Eleanor Roosevelt 5-0 on Monday, May 7. The win put the Hitmen at 5-4 and guaranteed them a spot in the playoffs.

Freshman Harrison Saladini won 8-0 in first singles, while freshman Arie Golubenko won 8-4 in second singles. Sophomore Jeremy Lee won 8-5 in third singles, and Melamed, along with senior and captain Stefan Engquist, won 8-3 in second doubles. “[The underclassmen] have been doing great. They can play tennis. Joshua and Arie have a great skill set,” coach Marvin Autry said. Juniors Robin Han and Nicholas Chan also won 8-3 in first doubles, giving Stuyvesant the 5-0 sweep.

“Nick and I are extremely proud of our team’s performance. The underclassmen had a big gap to fill in our team. However, they stepped up and were able to win their matches, allowing our team to continue to win against other teams,” Han said. This season, Melamed has had four doubles victories in five matches, and Lee is 2-0 in his singles matches. Sophomore Sujay Sharma, who is ranked eighth in New York State and 124th nationally, is an impressive 5-0 in PSAL singles matches. These underclassmen have saved what could have been a losing season for the Hitmen.

After a 4-1 loss to top-ranked Beacon High School on Wednesday, May 9, the Hitmen finished their season 5-5, fourth in their division behind Beacon, Bronx Science, and the High School of American Studies. Now, the Hitmen are looking to the playoffs. “We should make it out of the first round, but it will be a challenge to make it out of the second round,” Autry said. And even if the team does accomplish this, it will most likely have to face off against Bronx Science or Beacon, teams who have finished top two in the division for the past four years, in the final. According to Han, they both have nationally ranked players, and unlike Stuyvesant, Beacon recruits tennis players. The Hitmen have lost to each team multiple times during the regular season. “No. Not with what we have now,” Autry responded when asked if the Hitmen had a chance against either team.

However, Engquist thinks that the Hitmen are capable of winning the championship even if it may be unlikely. “Bronx Science and Beacon are tough competitors, and we have struggled against them in the past, but our new guys this year have already beat some of their strongest players this season,” he said. Sharma has beaten two Bronx Science players this year and blanked Beacon’s first singles player 8-0, the first matches the Hitmen have won against either school since the beginning of the 2017 season. Stuyvesant players had lost 25 straight matches against players from either team before Sharma’s victory on April 11.

Regardless of the struggles of the current season, players and coaches are enthusiastic about next season because of all the young talent on the team. “I’m extremely confident in our team’s ability to do well next year. We will have the majority of this year’s lineup for next year, and with a little more practice, we have a chance to beat strong teams like Bronx Science and Beacon,” Han said.

“With Sujay, Harrison, and Albert going into next season, [provided] they all come back, we would be a very strong contender for the championship,” Autry said.