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Volleyball is a family affair

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It was three years ago when Ethan Chen informed his parents he would make Bronx Science his high school alma mater.

There would be some sacrifice involved, not the least of which would be the two-hour commute from Queens each day. But Chen wanted Bronx Science and a chance to be part of the Wolverines’ successful volleyball program, a program that has been one of the premier outfits in both the Bronx and the Public School Athletic League.

So how did the Chen family receive the news of Ethan’s high school destination? Well, Chen’s father, Daniel, retired to his closet and quickly returned with a gift. It was a jacket nearly 25 years old, but made for the perfect present.

“I actually pulled out my old letterman jacket and I gave it to him,” Daniel Chen said.

You see, Ethan Chen is not the first in his family to attend the prestigious Bronx high school. That distinction belongs to Daniel, a proud member of the Bronx Science Class of 1992, and quite the volleyball player himself at the time.

Volleyball has created a unique bond between father and son, one the pair continues to enjoy as Ethan leads an unbeaten Wolverines team this season.

“It’s pretty cool to say my dad went here and did the same things I’m doing,” Ethan said.

Daniel began playing volleyball at a young age and continued once he enrolled at Bronx Science in 1988. And it has been a part of the Chen family ever since.

“I made the team my freshman year, and I was on the team all four years,” Daniel said. “We were always one of the top contenders and always made it into the playoffs. But I don’t know that we did it as well as they’re doing it now.”

It might be hard to top the run of success Ethan Chen’s teams have had at Bronx Science. In his two-plus seasons on the varsity squad, the junior setter has helped lead the Wolverines to a 26-2 regular season mark (including 8-0 this season) and back-to-back Bronx A Division crowns. Naturally, all of that on-court brilliance begs the question — which Chen is the better player?

“I’m definitely on the decline,” Daniel said, with a laugh. “Ethan has definitely surpassed me, but I would still challenge him in my prime, that’s for sure.”

The love of volleyball runs deep in the Chen family. The oldest, Timothy, starred at Hunter High School and is now playing at West Point, Daniel’s alma mater. The youngest, Jacob, currently plays at Francis Lewis High School in Queens.

But the passion for the game also extends beyond Ethan Chen’s immediate family.

“I also have five other cousins who are playing in the PSAL,” Ethan said.

But none may have as good a shot at a possible PSAL title as Ethan Chen’s Bronx Science team does this season. The Wolverines have some unfinished business to attend to after they saw their perfect regular season blemished by a single late-season loss last year before being eliminated from the playoffs in the second round.

“I think this year we’ll break the curse of losing one game during the (regular) season,” Ethan said. “I think we’ll go 10-0 this year, and we’re definitely looking past the second round of the playoffs, which is something we haven’t been able to overcome the past two years. I think there are only one or two other teams that could contend with us, so I’m hoping we go all the way to the finals.”

If they do, Daniel will be on hand to perhaps see his son bring home that elusive city title for Science — and maybe see the school bring back those letterman jackets. One that would read “PSAL Volleyball City Champions.”

“I don’t think they do letterman jackets anymore, but back then it was really big for players to have one of those leather-sleeved jackets with the big volleyball logo on the back,” Daniel said. “But maybe they’ll bring them back. I don’t think they’ll go with the leather sleeves and the throwback style, but maybe they’ll get some kind of jackets.”

There is talk Ethan may again follow in his dad’s footsteps and head to West Point after graduation. If so, might we see yet another generation of Chen’s gracing the Bronx Science volleyball court one day down the road?

“I think it’s a possibility,” Ethan said, with a laugh. “If I have a son, I would definitely push him to play volleyball because it’s a great sport and I love it. But it’s not something I’ve been thinking about yet.”

To which dad quickly added, “I’m not rushing you either.”

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