by Elena Orgel

Hillel sports teams have been the big buzz in Deal, New Jersey, this past year. The goal four years ago was to have our school compete with the powerhouse yeshiva teams in the Tri-State area. Many of the schools that have had winning programs, in the past ten years, are situated in North Jersey, Brooklyn and Manhattan. Now, in 2013, there is a school that is rising quickly to the top and it is us, Hillel Yeshiva.

Hillel Yeshiva athletes have benefited by a strong influence from the Deal Sephardic Network (DSN), an organization that has cultivated our kids to excel in athletics and brought in a whole new group of coaches. Under new coaches Jeffrey Saka and Jackie Ashkenazi, who teamed up with veteran coaches Morris Sultan and Stanley Rishty, Hillel has raised the bar. Last year’s 8th Grade Boys’ Basketball players Zack Kassin, Robert Tobias, and Isaac Steinberg felt that the coaches made a tremendous difference in the team’s performance: “Leave your fear at the door and teamwork makes our team work” are phrases the boys came up with to illustrate the unselfish attitude that they developed as a team. And last year’s 8th Grade Girls’ Basketball team felt similarly: Celia Cohen, Jacqueline Franco and Pearly Hanono felt that “we had a great season and a great team. We accomplished so much together. We couldn’t have gotten so far without our amazing coaches. It was such an amazing experience and we can’t wait till next year!” The difference the coaches made was remarkable—both 8th grade basketball teams went to the Yeshiva League Finals, achievements that occurred for the very first time in Hillel Yeshiva history.

In addition, this year the High School Girls’ JV Basketball team had a 12-1 record and reached the 2013 finals. Just the year before, the Hillel girls had a 1-9 record, and the turnaround is ranked with some of the biggest achievements in Hillel Yeshiva’s history. Team member Rose Mishaan believes that “excellence doesn’t just happen; it takes determination, a lot of practice and teamwork, not to mention a great coach!” The girls were especially lucky to have Morris Sultan as their coach; he had the special ability to build team chemistry which in turn helped the girls to win games. “Going from 1-9 to 12-1 is unimaginable and rare,” said 11th grade captain Ruby Franco. “We never give up, no matter where we are in the game or where we are in the line-up because we never know what the outcome will be. When we give our all that is when we achieve victory! Even though we lost the championship, what we achieved as a team was our victory,” added 11th grader and co-captain Norma Ashkenazi.

Hillel students also excelled in the April All-Star Basketball Games. Competing with outstanding athletes from the Tri-State area, Nathan Bibi, High School JV, won MVP at the boys’ game and Celia Cohen won MVP at the 8th grade girls’ game. Both were incredible accomplishments. Kudos to our coaches and players!
Hillel is now looking to make some noise in the Yeshiva Softball League. Hillel Varsity Boys’ coach Joe Ashkenazi is coming off a 7-1 season and is ready to make a run at the Championship. The Girls’ Varsity Softball team, led by Eddie Anzarouth, has a strong team this year that will be able to compete with anyone.

In 2012, Hillel Yeshiva, once again, captured the Yeshiva League Tennis Championship. Coached by Shlomo Weiss, the title was Hillel’s 2nd in three years. This year Hillel Yeshiva is the #1 seed in the program. Coach Weiss’ ability to teach the team some very important techniques have proven to be very effective: “stay positive, keep the strong shot going—the ratio is in your favor, play one point at a time and lastly don’t let a missed shot throw you.” Mr. Weiss believes that his team should play the game just like you play in practice. He always reminds the players that they are the ambassadors of their school and community.

Morris Cohen, a three-year member of the team and graduating senior, likes to quote his coach: “Who are we? We are the team to beat!” and realizes that good sportsmanship and a strong focus are the keys to the game.
Hillel Yeshiva emphasizes the spirit and dedication of both our players and our coaches. We foster excellence on the court and off as our coaches teach our athletes that good sportsmanship is as important as winning the game. With each of our teams working together towards their goals we anticipate continued success in the 2014 season.

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