Brooklyn Technical High School’s freshman and first singles William Song was on an intensive winning streak.
“CHO LEI!” Song yelled the classic table tennis victory chant as he gained point after point over Bronx Science’s senior and first singles Junjie Gao. His dark blue t-shirt cladded comrades filled up the third-floor gymnasium, screaming approval. It was no surprise to anyone in the crowd when Song overtook Gao in a victorious 11-9 win.
“SECOND PLACE! SECOND PLACE! SECOND PLACE!” the Brooklyn Tech boys’ team, The Engineers, chanted as they encircled him in an ecstatic frenzy. Several members jumped up and down in time with the words’ syllabic rhythm.
Song’s victory tipped the scales just enough for his team to move on to the finals, where they would later play Stuyvesant High School’s boys’ table tennis team, the Titans.
Four years ago, the two teams, once intense rivals, exchanged table tennis battles in a full-out finals war. Stuyvesant was tied 2-2 against The Engineers before then second doubles freshman Eric Amstislavsky and senior Alan Baranov defeated their opponent 11-7 in the fifth game.
Since then, the Titans have not faced a more challenging season. Then freshman doubles player Amstislavsky is now Stuyvesant’s senior second singles, and after the boys’ team defeated The Engineers and won their first PSAL table tennis championship, the team went on to win a chain of consecutive championship titles. This year was no different.
When the Titan starter players were called to their finals match, each sauntered confidently and assertively toward their designated table.
In less than 15 minutes, Amstislavsky defeated his opponent, sweeping him 3-0. Often, his loops and flicks deftly overturned his opponent’s underspin serves.
Though much slower paced than the singles matches, the Titan’s first and second doubles matches easily overtook the Engineers. Decisive serves, strategizing, and thought-out footwork between the doubles players gave Stuyvesant two more 3-0 wins.
The Titan’s senior and first singles Alston Wang was the last to finish his match. Unlike his teammates, Wang’s match stretched all the way to the fourth game, in which he ended his opponent with an unreturnable smash. “[The game] was much closer than I expected,” Wang said. “The last two times I played it wasn’t that close, but I guess it’s finals, and the pressure was on, so it got close. He was returning my loops, and I got kind of scared.”
Wang’s blunders didn’t stop his personal fans from vigorously applauding for him throughout the entire match. At the last point, Song overshot his counterattack, causing the white three-star ball to fly over the net and out of the table.
Coach Bernard Feigenbaum was content with the results. “[It went] better than I expected, actually,” he said. “I was a little worried because there were four-year seniors who had already won three times […], but they were actually stronger than I thought.”
Captains Amstislavsky, Wang, and Yao have been on the table tennis team since it was introduced four years ago. Coach Feigenbaum spoke of their growth and improvement. “I knew them as freshman; they were little kids. And now, they’re all grown up,” Feigenbaum said. “[During] senior year, their mind[s were] on other things, you know, colleges, girlfriends, and [I] see how they [have] change[d]. It’s going to be sad [to see them leave]. [We have] a special relationship.”
However, Chen, who will most likely be next year’s captain and first singles, is confident that he can add a fifth cup to Feigenbaum’s collection. “I think we have a 100 percent chance of winning, if I decide to play,” he said in good spirits.
But until then, Feigenbaum is plenty satisfied with the trophy his team earned this year. “I’m going to go put this back in my office, give the principal the old one, and keep this [one] until I retire,” he said.