MANHASSET, N.Y. — In its brief, four-year history, the Manhasset High School Boys’ Volleyball team had not been good. I had been on the team for the past three years—I should know.
While other sports had decorated banners in the gym celebrating decades of success, our banner was one of only two that was completely empty. With three coaches in four years, and one of our best players graduating the previous year, the coming 2022-2023 season did not hold much promise.
However, the school took a chance on hiring young Jason Maser, the 22-year-old coach for the B&B Club Volleyball team. He was already familiar with the MHS team captains: Christian Wong (middle), Anderson Lu (libero), and me, Ben Punzalan (setter), and he came with high expectations for the group. Coach Jason brought a unique knowledge of the game that our old coaches hadn’t, and he began to establish a culture of hard work and communication that would stay with us throughout the season. Between watching film, running new drills, and learning new defensive schemes, we were more prepared than ever.
Once the season started, it was clear that this was a completely new team. We were more fluid, we played together, and we hustled every point. Through the team’s excellent play, led by the connection between Christian Wong and myself, as well as through the team’s presence on Instagram (@setboysvolleyball), word got out about the Manhasset Boys Volleyball team. Alongside the star players, team personalities like sophomore Teddy Chan and freshman Isaias “Drake” Mejia, captivated fans within the school. The Manhasset Broadcast Company, which runs the high school’s weekly news show, began covering the team, creating engaging and hilarious segments that captivated the school community. For the first time in years, people were excited to cheer us on. Previously empty stands were now filled with fans, students and parents alike, who held up signs and screamed in support of their squad.
As the wins kept coming, we soon realized that, against all odds, we had a chance to claim the Division Title and make the playoffs for our first time ever. Eventually, boasting a 13-1 record, we had to face-off against the undefeated team from Elmont, which had eliminated us from playoff contention the previous year. The four-set duel brought out the best in both teams, and clutch performances from Andrew Mei (outside hitter), Alex Zarboulas (right-side hitter), and Austyn Park (defensive specialist) propelled our team to the victory. In one of the highlights of my own high-school experience, we were able to silence the booming Elmont home crowd, and bring home our first-ever Division Title.
Motivated by our big win, we finished the season 16-1, and were eagerly awaiting the playoffs. Although we were the underdog as the 12-seed against the fifth-seed Bellmore-JFK, we were confident in ourselves and felt that we had rightfully earned our spot. Unfortunately, we had never played a team of their caliber, and they had been used to facing the best teams on the island all year. In a heartbreaking 3-1 loss, our season was ended, though it was not without its great moments.
With six of the seven starters for the team graduating this year, the future of the team remains uncertain, except for one thing: the banner. In four years, everyone on the current team will be out of high school, but that banner will still say “23”—forever a reminder of one of the most unique and exciting athletic seasons in Manhasset history.
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