Jake Goldsmith sat slumped on the Bronx Science bench, floored at what had just happened. Ryan Kim sat with his head down while Ethan Chen sat quietly in the corner, changing out of his Wolverines’ volleyball uniform for the final time this season.
It was not supposed to end this way. Bronx Science’s magical season had brought them to the quarterfinals of the Public School Athletic League playoffs, and one more home win over Hunter — a team Bronx Science already had defeated twice this season — would vault the Wolverines into the semifinals for the first time ever.
But the Hawks came into Bronx Science and wrote a sour ending to the Wolverines’ feel-good story, knocking off the third-seed 25-22, 17-25, 25-21.
“We felt like we had a good game plan against them,” Bronx Science head coach Dan Skilins said. “But I felt like we got a little flustered. They were just a much-improved team since the last time we played them. For them to come in here and beat us at home is a heck of an accomplishment. My hat’s off to them.”
The first set was tight throughout with Bronx Science not taking its first lead until 11-10 on a Goldsmith kill. But with the match knotted at 19, the Hawks rolled off a 6-1 spurt to close things out and take a 1-0 set advantage.
While Science didn’t look itself in the first set, the Wolverines certainly resembled their old selves in the second, breaking open another tight set with an 11-4 run that put the pieces in place for a win-or-go-home final battle.
And with momentum firmly on their side and jumping out to a 6-1 lead, it sure looked like the Wolverines could make plans for a semifinal date with defending champion McKee/Staten Island Tech.
But led by sophomore Lucas Osiecki, who had 11 kills in the game, the Hawks came roaring back, tying the game at 16 and using a 9-4 run down the stretch to pull off the upset and send the Wolverines home.
“It’s really disappointing because I know we’re a better team than we showed,” said Goldsmith, a senior who finished with 11 kills in his final game. “If we had maintained the level that we had in the second set, we could have dominated and won in three sets. So I’m disappointed that we couldn’t keep that consistency. But we didn’t play like we deserved to win that game.
“I’m just stunned that we didn’t play the way that we knew we could have, especially at home in a playoff game.”
Skilins thought his Wolverines were on their way after stumbling in the beginning.
“I was really excited in the second game when we came back to win,” Skilins said. “We seemed to be firing on all cylinders.”
But the play of Hunter’s Osiecki and Pedro Nakashima (26 assists) was too much for the Wolverines to overcome.
“I think they got into our heads a little bit,” said Chen, who finished with 18 assists and six service points. “After (the second set), we thought we had it. But then we played down a bit. They took us by surprise. They started playing better defense and we weren’t adjusting well enough to them. I feel like we made too many mistakes. It was more our fault than them beating us.”
The loss short-circuited a season Skilins thought had more to come after meeting Hunter.
“We were on a mission to go to the finals this year,” Skilins said. “Hunter is a heck of a team, but I thought we had it. I liked the start of the third game. I liked the momentum we had, but in that third game they didn’t make any errors. They played very, very solid, and we didn’t. That was the difference.“
For Kim, another senior playing his final game, the disappointment was a small part of an overall stellar career.
“It’s been a great experience,” said Kim, who logged four service points, four kills and four digs. “Coach has taught me a lot and I learned a lot from this team. This team was like a small family. But now it’s time to move on.
“This has been a great four years, but this loss is heartbreaking. But I’ll stay strong and keep my head up.”