QUEENS, NY — The Armenian Youth Federation – Youth Organization of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (AYF-YOARF) Eastern Region’s New York “Hyortik” and Manhattan “Moush” Chapters co-hosted the 2023 National Athletic Tournament (NAT) on Presidents’ Day weekend. Hundreds of attendees were excited for a regional AYF-YOARF event in New York for the first time in many years.
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Almost 200 AYF Seniors signed up to compete in the indoor basketball and co-ed volleyball tournaments held at a four-court gymnasium at Queens College. There were nine men’s teams, seven women’s basketball teams and nine co-ed volleyball teams.
The majority of the double-elimination basketball tournament and half of the volleyball games were played on Saturday. The Greater Boston men’s team and Philadelphia women’s team received first-round byes as defending champions. After Saturday’s games, both men’s and women’s brackets looked identical as the semi-finals consisted of Detroit, Greater Boston, New Jersey, and Philadelphia. In the volleyball tournament, the Detroit, Greater Boston, Manhattan and Providence chapters were still alive following Saturday’s matches.
Sunday began with two games on the basketball court and one volleyball game to launch the semi-finals.
In the volleyball tournament, Providence defeated Detroit (2-0) and Manhattan defeated Greater Boston (2-1), leaving Providence and Manhattan to meet in the finals. The Manhattan Chapter eagerly started the game strong to compete in their first NATs volleyball final. The volleyball match went to the third set, and Manhattan took a 4-0 lead. Ultimately, the reigning champion Providence “Varantian” team was able to right the ship and brought home a second consecutive NATs volleyball championship trophy.
On the basketball courts, for the men’s side, Greater Boston beat New Jersey (54-46), and Detroit beat Philadelphia (54-42). Over on the women’s side, Philadelphia beat Greater Boston (33-16), and New Jersey beat Detroit in a nailbiter (27-25). Every matchup was highly anticipated, and a large crowd supported with cheers and chants for their chapters.
The women’s basketball championship was full of great passing, shooting and hard-fought plays. All eyes were on Theresa Jelalian of New Jersey, looking to bring one more NATs basketball championship home to her chapter in her last year of AYF eligibility.
Toward the end of the game, Philadelphia used its towering height and pestering defense to prevent New Jersey from making a significant run and was able to hold a consistent lead throughout the second half.
With Philadelphia up 26-21 and 15 seconds on the clock, Jelalian committed her fifth and final personal foul. She was met with a roaring applause of respect and honor from the entire gym, as her legendary 12-year NATs career came to a close. “Competing at NATs is a feeling like no other,” said Jelalian. “Playing with your chapter and competing against your friends is a moment you will never forget. It’s incredible how we all come together for these AYF events to compete, but more importantly, to keep our Armenian heritage alive.”
As the clock hit zero, Philadelphia was the victor by a score of 27-21. The tournament MVP award went to Victoria Selverian for her outstanding performance throughout the tournament. A livestream of the second half of the women’s championship can be found on the AYF Eastern Region Facebook page.
The last event of the tournament was the men’s basketball championship between defending champions Greater Boston and Detroit. The game started hot with high intensity, especially on both defensive ends. It was the complete opposite of the 2022 final which was full of scoring on both sides. This year, the Greater Boston and Detroit teams clamped down on defense, making sure it was difficult for either side to make a quick run. The first half ended with Greater Boston leading by a score of 21-19.
In the second half, Detroit began to capitalize on Greater Boston’s miscues. The Detroit guards punished any Greater Boston turnovers with scoring opportunities on the other end. With Greater Boston up 23-21 in the second half, the Detroit “Kopernik Tandourjians” used an 18-6 run to take a commanding 39-29 lead on the shoulders of Sasoun Tcholakian. Greater Boston tried to make one last final run, however Detroit ultimately took down the defending champions by a score of 44-36. Tournament MVP was awarded to Tcholakian, who delivered a dominating performance, scoring 23 of Detroit’s 44 team points. A livestream of the second half of the men’s championship can be found on the AYF Eastern Region Facebook page.
“There’s no better feeling than playing in these tournaments with people you’ve grown up with,” said Tcholakian after the game. “We had a game plan to bring a NATs championship back to Detroit, and that’s exactly what we did. It gives me great pride to look into the stands and see all of DKT screaming and cheering us on. We couldn’t have done it without them.”
Not only was the New York community ecstatic to be hosting a regional event, but also happy to welcome all to three exciting nights of entertainment. On Friday, DJ Harry started off the weekend right, followed by the Saturday night dance with Sako Tashjian. Win or lose, members gathered together to dance and eventually rejoiced as Tashjian ended the night singing Heghapoghagan songs. The weekend culminated with an event at Katch Astoria as attendees continued to celebrate until the early hours of the morning.
The organizing hosts, the Manhattan “Moush” and New York “Hyortik” Chapters worked hard to host a successful, fun and safe event.
“Playing in the greatest city in the world definitely has an impact on how other chapters perform when they come here,” commented Jack Abajian of the AYF New York “Hyortik” Chapter. “I’m proud of my team’s dedication, and I know we’ll be back to shock AYF in the years to come.”
The AYF-YOARF is looking forward to the 2023 AYF Olympics in Washington, DC and another weekend of camaraderie, competition and celebration. On behalf of the Central Executive and the 2023 NATs Committee, we would like to thank all those who attended and extend our congratulations to all tournament champions and MVPs!
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