One year after making the championship match, Bronx Science was upset last season in the PSAL boys volleyball second round by Hunter College HS. The early exit was a disappointment, but it’s in the past now. The Wolverines feel like they can get right back to the final and potentially bring hardware back to The Bronx.
“While we understand we're not head and shoulders above the competition and that anything can happen in a best of three,” coach Jeremy BasSie said, “the feeling is championship or bust.”
Really, the seeds of this season were planted two years ago when Science fell to Cardozo in the final. Four current starters were freshmen or sophomores on that team and three were pushing for playing time even then.
An Rong Xu
Bronx Science's Jerry Henriquez, an all-city setter, will lead the Wolverines this season.
The top guy in that group is sure-handed junior setter Jerry Henriquez, a Post All-City honorable mention selection last year. At 6-foot, he has exceptional size and he’s a year older and better.
The Wolverines might actually be the tallest contender in the city with 6-foot-5 senior middle hitter Preet Singh and 6-foot-3 middle Alex Barbulescu. Soo Chan and Alan Zhong are reliable outside hitters, three-year team members and also the team’s primary serve receivers. Opposite hitter Nate Chin, the brother of Post All-City first team girls volleyball player Melissa Chin of Stuyvesant, also returns and will make a significant impact.
“I joke by senior year [he] will make Melissa Chin be known as ‘Nate's sister,’” BasSie said.
The coach thinks this group, with all its experience and ability, has a chance to be even better than the 2010 squad.
“Fewer question marks, more well-balanced, significantly better chemistry,” BasSie said.
Bryant, the defending PSAL city champion, isn’t going to be as lethal as it was last year – and it can’t be expected to, not with the graduation of Post All-City Player of the Year Troy Gaugler. However, the Owls are going to be right back in the mix, perhaps exceeding the expectations of even their coach.
His top returner is star libero Godwin Sequeira, a Post All-City first team member, who has added a jump serve to his repertoire.
“Now he’s not only preventing other teams from scoring, he’s scoring for us, too,” Hagenlocher said.
The rest of the team will be largely inexperienced. Sujan Panday returns at outside hitter and Kemal Loppies has the unenviable task of taking over for Gaugler as the team’s primary swinger from the outside. Hagenlocher thinks he has a chance to be a powerful weapon.
A pair of basketball players – 6-foot-3 Sabit Ceho and 6-foot-1 leaper Nate Boco – will take over in the middle. Ilias Alkandry will slide into the setter position.
“I think we’re gonna be in the top eight,” Hagenlocher said. “A lot of times where you’re seeded is huge.”
New Utrecht is coming off its first appearance in the PSAL semifinals in coach Jennifer Lopez’s decade-long tenure with the boys team at the Bensonhurst school and has a solid nucleus coming back.
“They have the experience now,” Lopez said. “They know what it is, playing in tournaments, seeing other teams. I think they understand it a little more. They got a little bit of a taste of it. They want to get back to that place.”
Middle hitter Kwok Tang Wong returns after a strong playoff run. Setter and on-court captain Jon Jiang is also back and so is libero Ming Ho Zeng, the team’s emotional leader off the court. Outside hitter Rong Ya Wu has shown serious promise, Lopez said, in just his first season playing organized basketball.
The Utes had more than 30 boys try out for the team – it’s a booming sport in the area, which is made up mostly of Chinese immigrants who have played volleyball recreationally either in their native country or here. Lopez had to cut players the last two seasons for the first time.
That has equaled to success.
“Hopefully we’d like to go as far or farther as last year, but we’ll see,” Lopez said.
Cardozo fell in the second round last season after winning three straight PSAL city championships. The Judges remain young, but are a year older than 2011 and could make some noise.
“At times we look like we can contend and other times it’s like, are we there yet maturity wise?” coach Danny Scarola said.
Junior outside hitter Tyler Gaugler, the younger brother of former Bryant star Troy and former Cardozo star Todd, will be one of the team’s top players, along with fellow outside Isaac Hwang. Both are a year older and physically stronger. Setter Youngsoo Shin is also back and there will be some new faces in the lineup, like 6-foot-3 middle Joseph Han, 6-foot right side Jung Min Shin, middle hitter Moses Park and right side Jason Wu. Middle Paul Kim is an exceptional athlete and will also contribute.
The battle for Scarola, who has won two straight girls volleyball titles at Cardozo, is getting his Judges to be more consistent.
“If we fix that,” he said, “we’re right there.”
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