By: Haddar Kaplun ‘19
Heschel’s sports teams have met great success this year. While there were no teams that earned a championship banner, there is much to take pride in and a lot to look forward to next year. Heschel’s sports teams displayed an abundance of unity and relentlessness. Additionally, a common theme for many of the teams this season was resilience after loss.
For instance, the girls volleyball team started the season with four straight losses. However, as head coach Jezel Rodriguez put it, “We came together as a team.” Jezel further described that when the team came together, it led to more victories and ultimately took the team far into the playoffs. Despite the team’s success this year, Jezel and her players understand that they are going to lose several seniors who were vital to the team. Therefore the team is seeking underclassmen players who can fill the void left by these powerhouse players and put together a strong team and hopefully a repeat of this year’s success.
Another team this year that had success was the girls’ varsity basketball team. While the team did not go very deep into the playoffs, the theme of the season was bonding. Sophomore Julia Benichou summed up the season, saying, “It was a great bonding experience, and despite the losses we overcame it.” Benichou clearly expresses the feel of the team, saying that while the team did lose, the girls were still close enough to overcome the losses. Next year, the team will lose many of its seniors, and they will have to make a relatively large effort in recruiting the incoming freshmen. If the girls’ basketball team can get more freshmen, develop its present underclassmen, and ensure that key players, such as Benichou and junior Marley Storch, return, then the team can look to repeat its success and maybe even take a championship next season.
The boys’ soccer team also proved its excellence this year. Known to be the only sport in the school that plays both in the fall and spring, led by Coach Sasha, the team was able to finish with 7 wins and just 1 loss, good for second in the standings. They played very well as a group, but it also had two standout individuals scoring for the team. Junior Benji Ashley and senior Harlan Reiss scored 11 goals each this season, giving the team an advantage every time they played. After losing in the semis this year, however, the team will also lose an abundance of seniors, thus relying on underclassmen to bolster the ranks next fall.
The tennis and baseball teams, in the middle of their season, are doing considerably well. The tennis team so far has been tearing up the Yeshiva League, surging to four victories in four matches. Led by captain Jacob Segal, the team has proven to the other schools who doubted Heschel that it will go deep into the playoffs, and it has a legitimate chance at taking a championship banner back to the school. The baseball team, too, has been playing persistently and has proved to other teams in the league that Heschel baseball is not a joke. The team is currently 3-1, and thanks to ace pitchers, sophomores Jonny Alibayof and Benji Weinstein, and senior captain Jeremy Kagan, the team has been cruising to victories and making other teams change their perspective on the Heschel baseball team. But, in order to win it all, the team will have to display better hitting, and when the time comes, Heschel baseball will be a winning dynasty.
And last but not least is the Heschel boys varsity basketball team. From the start of the season, there were relatively low expectations for the team, especially because the team lost its two best players from last year, Ben and Aaron Brandeis. However, with heart and determination, the team was able to win 2 tournaments, 20 consecutive wins, and an incredible run to reach the finals against Frisch. The positive results are due, in no small part, to Head Coach Evan Pickman’s strategies. “Pick,” as he is commonly known around the school, would extend practices and do a lot of discussing and conferring before games. According to sophomore Jesse Abed, it was all worth it. He said that having the extended practices “helped our team chemistry and made us better players and improve.” Pick does everything for a reason, and while it may be challenging to sit through the lectures and going over plays multiple times, it all paid off.
Because the co-captains (seniors Jeremy Spiera and Michael Gatan) are graduating this year, it is time for the younger part of the team to step up. With the seniors gone, not only will the team be missing very skillful players, but also teammates who have wonderful leadership attributes both on and off the court. Sophomore Charlie Sutton described the the impact the seniors had on the team, saying, “This year’s seniors could not have been better, not just as players on the court, but as leaders for the younger guys.” Additionally, when responding to what the rising seniors and juniors’ role will be on the team next year, Sutton said, “They left us in a perfect position to succeed, and now we have to take advantage of that. Personally, taking after them would mean improving leadership skills … as there will be a whole lot of new responsibilities next year, both on and off the basketball court.” The leadership qualities have clearly been a significant reason for the team’s success, and the younger players are proving that they are willing to take on that role and bring Heschel basketball back to one heck of a good season.
All in all, this past year in Heschel sports has been successful, due to the leadership, passion, and resilience of its upperclassmen and athletes, and it’s not over yet. Now it’s time for the underclassmen to rise to the occasion.