Vixens Set Themselves up for Playoffs
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After unexpectedly losing their first game of the season against Lab Museum United (LMU), the Vixens, Stuyvesant’s girls’ varsity volleyball team, began a mission to bounce back. The Vixens had gone undefeated in two of their last three regular seasons, giving this year’s players an overwhelming amount of pressure to meet high expectations. Instead of dominating the top of the standings, they left their game against LMU at the bottom looking up.
Led by seniors and co-captains Jenny Liu and Leila Ferguson, the Vixens stand at four wins and two losses, pushing forward despite the challenges they have faced so far. Just six months after the shortened 2020-2021 season, this upcoming season gave the Vixens a shorter turnaround than usual. In preparation, the team had to adjust to an influx of new players and the departure of many mainstays. First-year players make up more than half of the team, forcing the Vixens to build chemistry in a short amount of time. “When I was on the team freshman year, I felt very disconnected from the other players. There was a dividing line between the upperclassmen and the underclassmen which made it feel impossible to connect with them. But this year, that is not the case. We are all just one big family,” junior and outside hitter Venus Wan said.
On top of the fact that there are only two seniors on the team, the Vixens are also playing without two starters, junior and libero Jocelyn Mo and sophomore and opposite hitter Sanjida Sultana, who are both out on injury leave. This absence has challenged the depth of the team and forced players to fulfill roles they are not accustomed to. “Everyone has gotten so much better, especially since last year, [when] we had a season randomly in the spring,” Ferguson said.
“Just seeing others step up and play has been really fulfilling,” Liu said.
Instead of folding and letting their losses inhibit the rest of their season, the Vixens were able to overcome hurdles, winning four games to establish themselves in second place of the Manhattan A West standings behind LMU. In the Vixens’ four wins, they have swept two out of three series and won each match by an average margin of 8.25 points. In their most recent win against the Lady Titans of Bayard Rustin Educational Complex, sophomore Ellen Yu led the way with six aces, 10 service points, and four digs. Junior and setter Shivani Shah also played a key role by dishing out 10 assists. In their win against Fiorello H. Laguardia High School, Yu and Shah led the team again in service points and assists, respectively. Wan served up four aces of her own and also excelled with four kills alongside junior and outside hitter Emma McGee, who tallied the same amount.
Though the Vixens lost against LMU and A. Philip Randolph Campus High School, Coach Vasken Choubaralian said, “I am most proud of [our] great games against two strong opponents. We lost those games, but our great performance made it feel like a win.”
Overall, this season’s unique circumstances have brought the athletes together, allowing all to shine in their contributions to the team. Sitting in second place with a winning record, the team still has lofty goals ahead of them. The Vixens have clinched a spot in the playoffs, but it’s up to them to persevere against competitive teams. “I believe that having energy during games affects how we play, and sometimes we don’t have a lot of that. So that is one big factor that might determine the outcome of our season,” Wan said. The Vixens hope to take advantage of their final four regular season games to make their presence known, and feared, across the city as playoffs roll around.