“We never really believed that we could lose, and then we did,” senior Ely Sandine said. As co-captain of Stuyvesant’s boys’ ultimate frisbee team, the Sticky Fingers, Sandine was as devastated as anyone after the team’s semifinals exit in the State Championship. After winning four games, Stuyvesant faced Ethical Culture Fieldston School and played intensely in its last chance of making it to the finals.
After a rocky season and a postseason battle, the loss did not come easily to the team, which is used to repeated success. “We were coming off of three consecutive state championships, and as a result, we were expected to win this year,” Sandine said. The bar was set high for the Sticky Fingers, and as Sandine expressed, the boys simply could not perform under this pressure.
The year started off with the Youth Ultimate League of Arlington (YULA) tournament, which gathered the top teams from around the East Coast. Stuyvesant only managed to tally one win during the entire weekend, which, though disappointing, did not come as a complete surprise given the seriously tough competition. In Stuyvesant’s first match, it faced Yorktown High School—which was recently ranked 24th in the nation by the reputable High School Power Rankings—and ended the first half ahead of Yorktown 7-6. The Sticky Fingers ended up losing that match, but held their own against an elite squad.
A week later, Stuyvesant was set to play The Brooklyn Latin School. Despite the defeats in the YULA outing, the Sticky Fingers were confident, and perhaps unwisely played as if the game was a guaranteed victory. “We expected to win the game easily, and as a result played carelessly,” Sandine said. The team lacked sound fundamentals, turning over the disc on short passes and letting these small mistakes get to their heads.
This first upset set the tone for the rest of the season, and it seemed the Sticky Fingers had lost the dominance that previously defined them. After more ups and downs, Stuyvesant prepared for the City Championship that was on the near horizon. In a close semifinals showdown, the Sticky Fingers crawled to a one point victory over Fieldston. The win seemed to come as a surprise, but it earned them a shot at the City title nonetheless. “[We had] a lot of lucky plays, and we did not play our best,” senior Benjamin Zhang said.
Due to play Bard High School in the finals, Stuyvesant came mentally prepared and brought the intensity up a notch. The stronger gameplay was met with Bard’s strong lineup, and though the Sticky Fingers were able to keep it close, once Bard got ahead of them, they simply could not catch up. This loss was Stuyvesant’s third against Bard, after playing them twice during the season and falling short by one point both times.
By the time the State Championship arrived, the Sticky Fingers were motivated to continue the legacy that had been left by three graduating classes and take the title. Stuyvesant cruised by the first four games, beating Mamaroneck High School 13-1, New Rochelle High School 13-1, Brooklyn Latin 13-5, and Bronx High School of Science 13-5. After their quarterfinals victory over Bronx Science, the Sticky Fingers had less than an hour until they played Fieldston in the semifinals. Despite a strong first four games, semifinals proved to be a turning point in the tournament. “That’s when everything went south,” Zhang said.
Fieldston took the first half 7-0, shutting down any signs of Stuyvesant offense. Additionally, the Sticky Fingers’ defense relented, allowing the opposition to score. “We weren’t putting enough pressure on them after we gave up the disc,” Sandine said. In the second half, the Sticky Fingers were clinging to any hope of staying in the game. In their desperation, they scored five points before eventually succumbing to Fieldston.
Though the season’s end was crushing, some looked back on the year with satisfaction. Senior Jacob Grunebaum highlighted the great pressure that is put on the frisbee team. He explained that the expectation to win is a burden that affects the team’s game and takes away from focusing on the basics. Grunebaum was content with the team’s performance, and believes it should be proud of what it accomplished. “I think we achieved a very high level of playing and proved that we are a very good team, just that consistency ultimately was our greatest problem,” he said.
Though the Sticky Fingers will lose many strong players next year, they will continue to work hard for the title, learning from the mistakes made this year and keeping their heads up. This loss could humble Stuyvesant and change the dynamic next season. “It has been a while since we played as the underdogs,” Sandine said.