The chance to bring home its first Public School Athletic League volleyball championship seemed to be slipping away for Bronx Science.
The Wolverines — who had not lost a single set in the regular season while piling up 17 straight wins — already were down a set in the city championship game against top-seeded Brooklyn Tech, and the Engineers looked poised to close out the title match, building a 20-14 lead in the second set.
“I was thinking this is a tough place to be, but we can always pull ourselves out of it,” said Science junior Anya Lollos. “I had to keep that mindset, because if you think you’re going to lose, you will, because you won’t be pushing.”
And so began a comeback that looked to be ripped from the pages of a Hollywood script. The Wolverines began their march back with five straight points to pull within 20-19. But when Tech responded with the next three points for a 23-19 advantage, Science stood just two points away from defeat and that elusive championship would have to wait for another day.
But Science regrouped and staged the most improbable of comebacks, taking the second set 26-24. They then pummeled a stunned Tech team in the final stanza as the third-seeded Wolverines rallied to capture their first PSAL city title with an epic 21-25, 26-24, 25-16 victory at Queens College last week.
“When we were down, I think we realized this is the end of the line,” said senior co-captain Darya Lollos, who had eight service points in the win. “At that point I think we woke up and started really fighting. We were like, ‘Wait a minute. We can do this, so why don’t we?’”
After his Wolverines got over their initial jitters, Science head coach Dan Skilins said they morphed back into their dominant selves, imposing their will on Tech.
“Once we settled down and started passing, I really thought our offense could beat their defense,” Skilins said. “I’ve always believed in volleyball that offense beats defense.”
It certainly did on this night.
Anya Lollos finished with 13 kills, Grace Lorch set up the Wolverines’ potent offense with 20 assists, senior co-captain Amanda Maeglin logged six service points and five kills, Josephine Kinlan added five thunderous kills, Melanie Chuu posted nine service points, and Lucia Cho registered eight digs and six service points.
“My mantra for the last few games was, ‘Every point we fight. Every point we push,’” Maeglin said. “So after that (second) set, we just pulled everyone in the huddle and said, ‘No game is over until the whistle blows.’ So we came back and said, ‘Now this is our game and we’re in control.’”
There was one Science player, however, who was as surprised as anyone that the Wolverines were heading home with the championship trophy.
“I’m going to be honest, when we started preseason I didn’t think we would be here,” Lorch said. “But we played our hearts out in the third set, and I’m so proud to say we are city champions.”
The game marked the end of Science’s Sister Act, as senior Darya Lollos played her final game with sister Anya, a junior.
“It made me so happy when we won to think my big sister is going to college with a championship under her belt,” Anya Lollos said. “I’m just so happy for her.”
It also was the final game for senior co-captains Darya Lollos and Maeglin, a duo who were freshmen when Science reached the PSAL semifinals three seasons ago. Maeglin had said earlier in the week she hoped to end her career with a bang.
Well, did she?
“Oh my God, yeah,” she said. “We’re the first Bronx Science volleyball team to ever take this trophy home. Now that’s a bang. That’s the biggest bang we can leave. This is our legacy, me and Darya’s.”
It was also an emotional victory for Skilins, who lost his father, August, to cancer in October. And he told his team that maybe his dad had a hand in the Wolverines’ win.
“After the game I got the girls together and told them, ‘Listen, I think dad is watching upstairs and he said, ‘Great job. Really nicely done,’’” Skilins said. “I think maybe he had something to do with it. I think dad was up there telling the volleyball gods, ‘Listen, that team deserves it. Why not give them a win?’”
Outside the arena, Darya Lollos and Maeglin were asked if it will be difficult to take off their jerseys for the final time with their stellar careers now over. Neither seemed all that ready to take off Nos. 11 and 13.
“I think it’s bittersweet,” Maeglin said. “My biggest passion has been to lead these girls and to be part of this team and to represent my school and myself in the best way I can. So to take off this jersey and give it back, I feel like I’m losing a part of myself. But at the same time, I’m leaving a part of myself with the school. And to me, that’s beautiful.”
“I’m definitely not ready,” Lollos added. “But now I think I can leave with no regrets. I’m proud that we have a legacy that we can leave behind.”