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Photo via Maspeth High School
Photo via Maspeth High School
The Maspeth boys tennis team holds the trophy, plaque and banner after winning the PSAL Championship on May 30.

The Maspeth High School varsity boys tennis team capped off a perfect season in style on May 30 by defeating a familiar foe to win the program’s first City Championship.

Maspeth won the 2018 title match, 3-2, against Bard High School Early College. Four years prior, however, it was Bard that got the best of Maspeth during the 2015 championship game, 3-2. That was Maspeth’s first season competing in the Public School Athletic League (PSAL), so for the seniors now who were freshmen back then, this was a shot at redemption, said head coach Ryan Stansfield.

“There’s a little bit of an unspoken rivalry with the programs just because we’ve both experienced a lot of success,” Stansfield said.

In fact, Maspeth boys tennis has seen nothing but success in its early years. In 2016 and 2017, the team advanced to the final four in the PSAL playoffs and lost.

But that means that in its four years of existence, the Maspeth tennis team has been in the final four or better every time.

The impressive run has come despite having no expectations when the program began. Since Maspeth High is such a young school — founded in 2011 — their athletic teams get approved on a rolling basis in the PSAL, explained athletic director Jesse Pachter. When a team gets approved, the school often has to find a faculty member who can coach but may not have a ton of experience with that sport.

“With not a huge amount of prior experience in tennis, [Stansfield] stepped up to the challenge,” Pachter said. “Our school was kind of on the edge of their seat every year hoping that we’re going to walk away with a championship. For this to be the year, not only is it one of the more surprising, but it’s definitely one of the sweeter ones.”

Pachter added that many of the Maspeth coaches in this situation have taken it upon themselves to do research on their own time and learn how to be great coaches, but half the battle is simply being able to build good relationships with student-athletes.

Stansfield agreed, and he said that his philosophy when he took the tennis coaching job was to make the kids love the sport and want to keep coming back.

“If they are going to really enjoy it and play it without me, then that’s really the key to success,” Stansfield said. “The reason our program took a huge step that first year was when the season ended, our kids were at the park all summer playing tennis and other teams weren’t.”

As for this year’s championship run, Stansfield continued to praise the work ethic of his players. When he leaves practice at 6 p.m. he knows that many of his players stay for at least another hour to keep practicing on their own, Stansfield said.

Moreover, some of the substitutes on the team that didn’t see much playing time this year stuck around after the semi-final match, which lasted until almost 8 p.m., and asked their coach to leave them with some tennis balls so they could go to Frank Principe (Maurice) Park and practice under the lights, Stansfield said.

With that level of commitment from young players, combined with the loss of only three seniors this season, Stansfield knows Maspeth tennis has a great chance to continue building on its winning tradition.

“That’s what gives me an insanely positive outlook for this program,” Stansfield said. “Even the kids that aren’t necessarily contributing right now want to in the future and they’re putting in that time.”

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