It had already been a nine-day layoff for Bronx Science, from its final regular-season win over Columbus until it met the High School for Art & Design in its first round playoff game last Wednesday.
It was too long a drought for Wolverines’ head coach Dan Skilins’ tastes, and one made even longer when Science was forced to endure a 35-minute delay to the start of its game due to a late-arriving referee.
“I talk with other coaches and we all feel that the week off before the playoffs doesn’t do anything for us,” Skilins said. “When the season ends, we’d love to see the playoffs start immediately because with a week off the kids go down into a lull.”
The Wolverines, who went a flawless 12-0 in the regular season for the fourth consecutive year, did start off in that lull, falling behind the No. 25 seeded Cobras 4-1 to open the first set. But the Wolverines — who not only won their fourth straight Bronx A Division crown, but did so without losing a single set all season — regrouped and rolled to a 25-18, 25-13 victory to advance to the second round of the Public School Athletic League playoffs.
The No. 8 seed Wolverines will host No. 9 Townsend Harris of Queens this week with the winner getting a shot at top-seeded Hunter in the quarterfinals.
“That’s been kind of a theme with us,” said junior co-captain Amanda Maeglin, who finished with three aces, five service points and four kills. “We start the game off pretty slow, and it takes us a second to get into the mindset of the game. But that’s one of the things we’re working on. We talked about playoff mentality, you go in, you’re ready, and you’re focused.
“So that’s the goal, and hopefully in our next game, we can open with a bang and start off nicely.”
This is something of a surprising Science team this season in that just two of the 15 players on its roster are juniors with the rest freshmen and sophomores. But after a perfect run through the regular season, Skilins sees no reason why the good times can’t keep rolling in the postseason.
“We’re definitely jelling more and I see a lot more team cohesion,” Skilins said. “You can see the way we’re covering the ball on the court. (Opponents) are really going to have to put a ball away against us because we’re just covering the court so well. But I think we can play even better.”
The Wolverines received contributions from all over their roster as junior co-captain Darya Lollos logged four aces, four service points and four kills. Her sister, sophomore Ayna Lollos, added five digs and seven kills. And another sophomore, Lucia Cho, chipped in five aces and nine digs.
But Science also received outstanding performances from a quartet of freshmen as Grace Lorch posted a team-best 13 assists while Josephine Kinland and Katerina Spajic added four kills apiece. Diana Campbell posted a block and a kill.
Those Fab Freshmen have come a long way since the start of the season.
“They’ve been amazing,” Maeglin said. “Their dedication and their drive have improved 100 percent.”
The Wolverines have become a much tighter outfit since the beginning of the season, Maeglin said, crediting some off-the-court activities with bringing the team closer.
“One of the things Darya and I were working on was team bonding off the court,” Maeglin said. “So in preseason we had a team dinner and we all went for ice cream and took photos. Then (last week) we all went to my house and made tie-dye T-shirts. So we try to really be friends off the court, and that translates on the court.”
Whatever works, and it all seems to be working rather nicely for the Wolverines.
“We’re really excited to get this first win,” Maeglin said. “We’re hoping to go far, and I think we can do it. We just have to stay focused and play our game.”
And that starts against Townsend Harris in the second round.
“We’ve been talking about that game since before this game,” Maeglin said.
“We’re expecting to have to work to beat Townsend because they’re seed No. 9 and we’re seed No. 8. But everyone knows this is the fight, this is the beginning of the hill, and we really have to push to make it to the top.”