By SEAN BRENNAN
Bronx Science had seen this movie before. Twice in fact.
In each of the past two seasons, the Wolverines’ boys volleyball team had entered the season’s final stages toting an unblemished record as they pursued their first unbeaten regular season. Two seasons ago, that dream of a flawless regular season and an undisputed Bronx A Division title was dashed with a loss to Walton, forcing Science to share the division crown with the Wildcats.
Last season was more of the same as Science rolled into Walton with an 8-0 record only to lose again to the Wildcats, and — again — share the division crown.
So the Wolverines had to be thinking, “Third time’s the charm,” right?
The Wolverines walked into the Wildcats’ lair last week, owners of a 9-0 record and determined that this time, things would be different. But when Walton, whose only loss this season came against Bronx Science on April 3, took the first set 25-23, the Wolverines were once again on the brink of losing their perfect season and an outright division title.
But thanks to the herculean efforts of Ethan Chen and Jake Goldsmith, Science finally exorcised their Walton demons, rallying to win the next two sets 25-18 and 25-17 to post a perfect 10-0 division record and claim the division crown all for themselves.
“We didn’t expect it to go to three sets,” said Chen, who logged 20 assists, four service points, and three kills in the win. “We kind of thought it would be two sets. We got worried for a second because we weren’t performing well, but we came back to win, and now we’re 10-0.”
Goldsmith, who was dominant in the victory with 15 kills and six blocks, said it was an achievement to be shared by all.
“It’s really special,” Goldsmith said. “We were talking before the game with coach (Dan Skilins), and he said he had never gone undefeated before. So this is not only something that affected us, but the rest of the school and the whole volleyball program as well.”
After dropping that first set there, there was no panic on the part of the Wolverines, Goldsmith said. Just more of a resolve to get the job done and bring home that division title.
“I wouldn’t say we were nervous,” Goldsmith said. “We were more angry because we know we’re a much better team than that. We played Walton before, and we dominated them. And we dominated most teams we played in the PSAL this year. So knowing we had to win the next two (sets), I wouldn’t say it was nervousness, it was more anger.”
In the second set, Science clung to a 19-18 lead, but then proceeded to score the final six points to close out the set. The final set was not nearly as dramatic as the Wolverines took an early 5-4 lead and never looked back. Science used a 14-6 run to build a 19-10 advantage, and Walton never got within seven points the rest of the way.
“The guys made a point of reminding me that this is the first time we’ve gone unbeaten,” Skilins said. “So they’re really excited about it. It’s a heck of an achievement.”
With the victory, the Wolverines were awarded the No. 3 seed in the upcoming Public School Athletic League playoffs, and will receive a bye in the first round. They play the winner of the No. 14 Madison versus No. 19 Edward R. Murrow match at home May 9.
Now that Science has taken care of business in the regular season, it will now turn its attention toward a long run in the PSAL playoffs.
“We’ve beaten every team we’ve played when we played our very best,” Chen said. “If we can maintain that level, we could win the city championship.”
There was no celebration after winning the division title and posting the school’s first unbeaten season. There might be a pizza party at some point, Chen said. And some bubble tea, at least according to Goldsmith. But Skilins has an idea why things were so low key after the win.
“We’re working towards the (city) championship,” the coach said. “The pieces are in place with this team. We’ve played a lot (of matches) outside of the Bronx this season. We played in four tournaments and we finished third twice, second once and we won one. So we feel, citywide, we’re one of the four top teams.
“We know what we have personnel-wise. Everybody is going to have to contribute in the playoffs one way or another to help this team win a championship.”