Victoria Phang looked bored.
The senior goalkeeper for the Bronx Science girls soccer team was spending most of the Wolverines’ season-opening game watching the action down at the other end of the pitch. And while Phang saw precious little action in the game against Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy, Science head coach Annie Eckstein was more than happy with her goalkeeper’s afternoon of leisure.
“She didn’t have to do very much today,” Eckstein said. “I like it when that happens. I don’t like to get too nervous, and I didn’t have to worry about that today.”
RKA managed just a handful of shots on Phang, the bulk of them coming in the second half of what would eventually turn out to be a 6-0 victory for Bronx Science. So yes, Eckstein had no worries, and that is a recurring theme for these Wolverines, who have become quite the powerhouse program in the Public School Athletic League the last several seasons.
“I came here in the fall of 2011, and we’ve made it to the finals every year except for last year,” Eckstein said. “We’ve made it to the quarterfinals every year since I’ve been here, and we’ve been in the final game five out of the last six years, and won two championships.”
When Eckstein arrived at Bronx Science six years ago, the Wolverines’ program was fairly successful. But since her arrival, Eckstein has taken that success to a whole new level.
Eckstein led the Wolverines to an overall 69-8-3 mark, including the season-opening win over RKA. She’s also posted three unbeaten regular seasons, has a 19-4 record in PSAL postseason play, and won the league championship in both 2012 and 2015.
With numbers like that, it’s not a stretch to call the Science program a dynasty.
“I’ve been lucky enough to continue to get girls who played club (soccer) before they got to high school, so they’re experienced,” Eckstein said. “They want to compete at a high level in high school, and because of our tradition of doing well, they look to Bronx Science if they’re going to go to a specialized high school. So we’re very lucky.”
Perhaps, but there is no luck involved once the Wolverines take the pitch on game day.
In the victory over RKA, Science had two players score two goals apiece in Sofia Mahairas and Elena Morgan. Ruby Hogue and Claire Glendening net one goal each, and the Wolverines put on a stifling defensive show that made Phang more or less an innocent bystander in the win. It’s that kind of dominant play that makes Science a regular visitor to the postseason.
“Our coach is very good,” Mahairas said. “Her practices are so specific on what we need to work on. That really helps us fix our weaknesses. But there is also a lot of communication within the whole team. We help each other, and we talk on the field, so it’s just a good environment.
“Everyone supports each other and we all want to succeed.”
What makes the Wolverines’ success all the more impressive is they have achieved it while competing at a very demanding academic school.
“We are either practicing or have a game five days a week, and many of them do extracurricular activities in addition to their school work,’ Eckstein said. “They’re in clubs and they’re in debates — even in season. So balancing that is very difficult.”
With one win already in the books, Science is off to a great start in what could be yet another magical season. Maybe another trip to the title game? Perhaps a third PSAL crown in the Eckstein era?
Who knows? But the Wolverines’ track record suggests you can expect to see them in November when the PSAL’s finest are battling for that championship hardware.
“The girls here are extremely motivated and work hard, and they want to be successful,” Eckstein said. “I’m not going to say we’ll win it all because from the beginning of the season to the end of the season is a very long road. Injuries happen and things come up, and sometimes there are things you can never plan for.
“But we absolutely can win it, and that’s our goal. But we’ll just have to see how it all plays out.”