Stuyvesant Dragons 5, Martin Luther King Jr. 0
By Aaron Coppa
Advancing to the quarterfinals in the Public School Athletics League (PSAL) boys’ handball playoffs seems easy when looking at the performance of the Stuyvesant Dragons. They won the first three consecutive games in the match, securing their advancement into the quarterfinals, and then went on to shut out Martin L. King Jr. (MLK) 5-0. Continuing their undefeated season, they hope to finally win the PSAL city championships for the first time in the team’s history.
Senior and co-captain Calvin Chong played the first singles game of the match on Wednesday, May 23, against MLK. Showing off his superior serving, Chong was able to take an early lead against junior Abir Rahman. Despite some minor setbacks, he managed to secure the first game with a final score of 21-12.
“My mental game is not that great,” Chong said. “I usually score a lot of points in the beginning and then get nervous.”
Chong’s fears almost became a reality when he appeared to be slipping once he reached match point. However, he eventually managed to halt Rahman’s comeback and still won with a wide point margin.
“It’s really all about the serve,” coach Robert Sandler said. “I want them to have a really dominant serve.”
Sandler didn’t seem too worried about this match, but instead wanted his players to focus on improving and preparing for the much more difficult quarterfinal match against Brooklyn Tech. In fact, he even had his third singles player, senior and co-captain Eric Han, practice different types of serves in order to get comfortable with them for the showdown against Tech.
The rest of the games flew by, with Tech barely managing to get single digits on the board, and the Dragons ended with a 5-0 victory. With the team really showing off the strong serving that Sandler was hoping for, especially by second singles player and senior Richard Hsu, the second round of the playoffs was a breeze for the Dragons.
Stuyvesant Dragons 5, Telecommunication Arts and Technology Yellow Jackets 0
By Alen Makmudhov
Five and zero are a very familiar numbers for the Dragons thus far in the Public School Athletics League (PSAL) playoffs. The Dragons have beaten every team that they have faced so far by a 5-0 score, also known as a shutout. The quarterfinal match against the Telecommunications Arts and Technology Yellow Jackets on Tuesday, May 22, was no exception.
The Dragons, as inferred from the score, completely dominated the match. Both senior and co-captain Eric Han and senior Calvin Chong completely topped their respective opponents, each winning with a score of 21-3 in their singles match. Both of the opponents in the singles matches were unable to return Han and Chong’s quick serves, resulting in fairly quick matches.
In the third singles match, senior and co-captain Richard Hsu defeated his opponent 21-7. However, despite the large margin of victory, Hsu was not satisfied with his game. “I was frustrated because [my opponent] did not take the game seriously, because he knew his team already lost. I think it was a waste of time,” Hsu said.
Even though the Dragons had already secured a victory, both doubles teams played to the best of their abilities. It was evident that there was a lot of chemistry between the pairs, and they meshed well together on the court. The first doubles team is usually senior Kevin Sheng and junior John Hu. However, Hu was due to a bone bruise on his hand and was replaced by sophomore Wilson Li. Despite having a sub in the game, the team still won with a final score of 21-14. “[I thought] we played great,” Sheng said.
The second doubles team, which consists of juniors Alexander Bu and Cody Tong, is one of the undefeated doubles teams in the city. Expectedly, they breezed through their game and won 21-10. “[Bu] and I played our hardest and kept our title as the undefeated second doubles in the city. We hope to continue playing our best game and eventually get through finals,” Tong said.
Stuyvesant Dragons 5, Francis Lewis Patriots 0
By Alison Fu
The beads of perspiration that glistened on the foreheads of the Dragons were misleading; they were caused more by the heat than the physical exertion that results from stiff competition. The Dragons easily defeated the Francis Lewis Patriots 5-0 on Friday, May 23, and advanced to the championship game against the Bayside High School Commodores.
The most exciting moments of the match came during the first singles matchup, with senior Calvin Chong going against Bayside’s tough-to-beat Michael Zhou. Chong trailed for the majority of the match, but seemed to fatigue Zhou, who had a complete collapse and gave up six straight points to give Chong the win, 21-16.
“I slowed down on my serves and I was able to relax, because [Zhou] didn’t like it when I take too long on my serves, and he started messing up a lot,” Chong said. “Coach [Robert Sandler] told me to be aggressive but to calm down. He also called really appropriate time outs.”
There were also some tense moments during the second singles game. It was back and forth throughout the match, and came down to the final point, with Richard Hsu ultimately winning it for the Dragons with a score of 21-20.
However, there was a relatively little amount of suspense throughout the rest of the matches. Juniors Cody Tong and Alexander Bu won the first doubles match 21-10, and the second doubles duo of senior Kevin Sheng and junior John Hu dominated their opponent and won 21-6.
This semifinal win by the Dragons marked their 16th straight win this season, and also added to their sixteen-game streak of shutting out their opponents 5-0. The team hopes to carry this momentum into their first finals game in the team’s history, and is optimistic about their chances to win it all.
“I think we have a very good chance of beating [Bayside],” Sandler said. “This is the best team I’ve ever coached at Stuy, and this is the first time we’ve ever made it to the finals. Everyone hits the ball hard and everyone wants to win.”
Sandler’s determination is certainly echoed by his players. “We are going to go one-hundred percent because all of our players are highly motivated and we are hungry to win the playoffs this year,” Tong said. “We’re going to work hard and not become too confident. But, we definitely are going to fight to win.”
Bayside Commodores 3, Stuyvesant Dragons 2
By Lev Akabas
Heading into their PSAL finals match versus the Bayside Commodores, the Stuyvesant Dragons were not accustomed to losing, having won all 70 sets they had played this season. Conversely, their championship contest against the first-seeded Commodores would not be a breeze as the rest of the season was for the Dragons.
The match was held on Friday, May 25, and, as all matches, consisted of two doubles sets and three singles sets. The first team to win three sets would be crowned city champions. Although the Dragons fought hard, they eventually came up short, losing 3-2 in a close match.
After the Dragons won the coin-toss, coach Robert Sandler selected to have their second doubles team of juniors Cody Tony and Alexander Bu play first. He was extremely confident in them, since that tandem had previously beaten the Commodores’ second doubles team at an invitational match.
Tong’s powerful serving helped the team jump out to a quick 15-6 lead, just as expected by Sandler. But the pair began making sloppy errors, allowing their opponents to get back in the game, and eventually suffered a 21-16 loss. “We expected to win that one,” Sandler said. “They just got nervous.”
Next up was the first singles match, in which senior Calvin Chong headed in as the underdog for the Dragons against the Commodores’ junior Theodore Mleczkowski. Chong got off to a hot start, claiming a 6-2 advantage early in the set. Nonetheless, Chong struggled to return the vast array of serves to all areas of the court that Mleczkowski had, and lost the following 12 points, leading to a 21-13 loss.
Just one loss away from going home empty-handed, the pressure fell on senior and captain Eric Han to win his singles set in order to extend the match. He started off strong, claiming a 14-3 lead over his opponent, sophomore Weiquan Wang, by repeatedly serving the ball deep and then killing Wang’s weak shot. After that, Han never looked back, en route to a 21-17 victory.
With the Dragons now back in the match, junior John Hu and senior Kevin Sheng were in yet another do-or-die situation in their doubles set. They came through, winning easily by a score of 21-8, and setting up one final singles set to decide the championship.
Competing in the winner-take-all set for Stuyvesant was senior Richard Hsu, facing off against Bayside’s senior Philip Michealides. In the beginning Hsu seemed unbeatable, taking a 4-0 lead on strong serving. However, Michealides was serving excellently as well, and Hsu was having trouble playing out the points when he had to return Michealides’s serve.
“[Hsu] just couldn’t rally,” Sandler said, “he was playing tight, and he usually plays much better than that.” Hsu kept the set competitive, but was never able to get a run going after losing his early lead, and eventually lost 21-12.
The Dragons were expectedly disappointed because they felt as if they had been handed the opportunities to win, but failed to capitalize on them. On the other hand, Sandler was extremely pleased with how his team valiantly fought back and nearly won. “We were down [by two], and we could have lost the third match and just left, [but] we came incredibly close,” Sandler said.
“We lost the first two, but after we won the second two, we still had a chance to win the whole thing,” Chong said.
On top of being pleased with their persistence during the match, the Dragons were thrilled with the feat of making it to the finals, something they haven’t done since Sandler began coaching in 2002.
“I would have liked it if they won, and I know that’s what they wanted,” Sandler said, “but I’m impressed that they got this far.”
“As a whole, I think we did fabulous,” Han said. “We had a perfect record going into this game, and it’s disappointing that we lost, but I’m extremely proud of my teammates, and I’m really happy that we got to the finals.”