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SFP cruises past St. Ray’s

The St. Francis Prep varsity and junior varsity handball teams celebrate their unbeaten seasons. Photo by Robert Cole
TimesLedger Newspapers

Ryan Delevan’s focus, skill and competitiveness were all on display as the sophomore wanted to be the one to clinch history for the St. Francis Prep handball team.

The first singles players had to catch up if he was going to win his match against St. Raymond’s Danny Hernandez before the Terriers’ first double team of David Rodriguez and Raphael Aguirre finished theirs to provide the championship point. Delevan sped up his play, hitting powerful, precise shots to the edges of the wall, one time demanding the ball back quickly once it trickled off the court after he won a point.

“It’s a little hard,” Delevan said of playing that way. “It’s kind of stressful. There are a lot of nerves.”

He finally got to point at assistant coach and mentor Billy O’Donnell in celebration once he secured the final point to win his match 21-9, 21-2 and seal SFP’s 5-0 victory against the Ravens in the CHSAA Intersectional championship at Orchard Beach in the Bronx June 5. It completed a season of maturation for Delevan and one of absolute perfection for the Terriers.

St. Francis Prep, in Fresh Meadows, did not lose a match for the 11th straight season, tying its own record set in 1981 by teams led by legendary Coach Bro. Allan Zoda. In addition the Terriers, along with their junior varsity team, also did not lose a single game during league play. It marks the first time that has happened since the school did it in 1976. The milestones are a special bonus to the program’s continued success.

“I’ve always said to the guys, the goal is the championship,” SFP head Coach Anthony Grimm said. “Everything else is gravy. These guys like gravy.”

The Terriers outscored St. Raymond in the match. Rodriguez and Aguirre topped Dylan Bermudez and Jake Iramov 21-4, 21-0 and the second doubles team of Justin Reyes and Kevin Liao beat Cliff Emmanuel and Tanvir Khan 21-1, 21-8. Leon Chen fought past Danny Halpin 21-16, 21-9 at second single. St. Raymond forfeited the third singles match after the championship was clinched. The Terriers were still playing among themselves on the court after the awards had been given out.

“Their love of the game is really what’s brought this to another level,” Grimm said.

The same can be said for Delevan, a rare freshman on the varsity last season. He played at third singles as he recovered from a shoulder injury. This year he earned the top singles spot by rededicating himself to the game and became more consistent by playing in numerous individual tournaments and playing against O’Donnell, a word champion at practice.

“It really amazed me,” Chen, a senior captain, said of Delevan. “I didn’t think it was possible coming from a guy like Ryan. He puts his heart into the game.”

Passion is all Grimm asks of his players. Chen said he doesn’t even mention perfection until the very end of the season. The players get use to the pressure of keeping the streak alive and don’t want it to end.

“It’s a great feeling,” Delevan said. “It shows we’re are the most dominant school out there.”

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