Phil Cancellaro didn’t much like what he was seeing in the first half of Bronx Science’s soccer match with Health Opportunities High School last Friday.
The Wolverines, who hadn’t lost a regular season game in almost two years — since Oct. 17, 2015 to be exact — were mired in a scoreless tie with a Health team that came in toting a meager 1-5-1 record. Science appeared to be simply going through the motions.
But a little motivational speech by Head Coach Cancellaro at halftime seemed to snap the Wolverines out of their collective funk.
“We came out a little slow and a little soft,” Cancellaro said. “So I told them we definitely had to pick up the intensity and stop acting overconfident because we beat this team by a big margin the first time we played them. I told them we had to recreate that scenario from the last time, it’s not just going to happen.”
And recreate Science did.
After coming close to scoring in the first half, when Zach Seigelstein caught the crossbar on a boot from the left side of the goal, Alex Bakos finally found the back of the net for Science early in the second half. And when Seigelstein added a much-needed insurance goal with eight minutes to play, Science was on its way to a hard-fought 2-0 victory. And the natural order of the Bronx A Division had been restored.
“We fell asleep in the first half of the game,” Cancellaro said. “But in the first five minutes of the second half, I was happy. But then we went into a lull again. I want to have that intensity for the entire match, because going into the playoffs, you want to have that mindset.”
Science (7-0-1) had knocked off Health Opportunities 4-1 in its first meeting, and looked in the first half like it could just duplicate that result with minimal effort. It turned out to be a lesson learned by the Wolverines.
“That’s fair to say,” said Bakos, whose goal was his second of the season. “After beating Kennedy (twice), I think we came out with less intensity than we should have, and that was definitely a wakeup call for the rest of our games.”
Seigelstein’s goal, his sixth of the year, cemented the win and kept Science’s ledger unblemished.
“Going undefeated would definitely help with the confidence going into the playoffs,” Cancellaro said.
While the win did not officially clinch the Bronx A Division title for a fourth straight time, it appears to be just a matter of time as there are just two games remaining in the regular season. Clinton, with two losses, is the only program with an outside shot at catching the Wolverines.
But if history is any indication, Science once again will lay claim to the division championship by this week. It is that goal of a fourth straight division crown that drives this Science team, especially its seniors.
“We talk about it all the time, and it’s on our mind,” said Bakos, who has seen Science post a phenomenal 38-2-5 record in the regular season in his career. “This is my fourth year here now, and I want to come away with a fourth division title. But we also want to go undefeated.”
And while Science has clearly built itself a stellar program, Cancellaro is not about to let his Wolverines become complacent. Not with so much more to be accomplished this season.
“We cannot underestimate any team in this division,” Cancellaro said. “All these teams have potential to be great. The division is still up in the air.”