Jeremy BasSie has noticed an alarming trend in his team throughout the PSAL boys volleyball playoffs.
Bronx Science has come out of the gate with some brilliant and dominant first sets, but then the Wolverines take the foot off the gas and have struggled in the second set.
“It’s been a theme throughout the playoffs, not a good theme, the fact that we come out with our A-game in the first set and then we let up,” BasSie said. “Even if we talk about avoiding the let up, it’s proved impossible thus far to maintain a high level for two sets in a row.”
It happened in a first-round win over Norman Thomas, a second-round victory against Long Island City and again Saturday in the Wolverines 25-14, 30-28 win over McKee/Staten Island Tech in the quarterfinals at York College.
Despite the consistent inconsistency, second-seeded Bronx Science advances to the semifinals Tuesday to face No. 6 Brooklyn Tech. The Engineers upset third-seeded New Utrecht in another quarterfinal.
“We just have to keep practicing, keep running our play and always stay in the game, don’t let it faze us,” junior Jerry Henriquez said.
There’s no team remaining in the PSAL with the size Bronx Science possesses. There’s 6-foot-4 Preet Singh and 6-foot-3 Alex Barbulescu, who create a 1-2 punch in the middle and at 6-feet, Henriquez might be the tallest setter in the city, according to BasSie.
“He can take a bad pass tight to the net and score points off that,” BasSie said of Henriquez, who had 20 assists and six kills.
BasSie believes it is an even bigger advantage defensively.
“We force teams to hit around us if they want to score points,” he said. “Now, they have to be blocking well.”
That wasn’t always the case Saturday against No. 7 MSIT (12-1), Barbulescu said.
“We still have to get better on our blocks,” he said. “We made some blocking errors today. I didn’t penetrate a few times and that was my mistake, but we’ll work on that in practice Monday and hopefully get better.”
Nathaniel Chin led Bronx Science (13-0), ranked No. 2 in New York City by MSG Varsity, with eight kills, although BasSie was quick to point out his six second-set errors.
Barbulescu had seven kills, Singh had four and Alan Zhong added six digs for Bronx Science, which lost to Hunter College HS in the second round last season, a year after falling to Cardozo in the final.
Barbulescu has battled ankle problems throughout dual-sport high school career – he also plays for the Bronx Science basketball team. The senior has sprained both ankles a total of four times in the last two years, the latest five weeks ago that sidelined him for three weeks.
He might not yet be 100 percent, but Barbulescu is back and making an impact on the court.
“It’s really frustrating because I really love playing basketball and volleyball, they’re my favorite sports, but I try not to think about it because I have the braces on,” he said.
Henriquez is the only player back from the team that reached the title game two years ago, but virtually everyone returns from last year’s squad. Because of that, BasSie was confident even when the Wolverines were in danger of dropping the second set Saturday.
“We’ve had a lot of experience in tournaments and non-league matches,” BasSie said. “I told the assistant coaches we do have a set to play with it. And even if they won that set, I think my guys would be able to refocus and come back in the third pretty strong.”
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