Fall Senior Athletes Wave Good-Bye to Bronx Science Sports

As the fall season has ended, senior athletes have closed the doors to the school sports they have played for years – it truly is the end of an era. Here, they reflect on what sports have taught them, and how they may play a part in their future.


Amalia Jardiniano

In the East Gym of Bronx Science, the underclassmen of the Girls’ Varsity Volleyball team honor their Senior players with posters (posed above). In years past, senior celebrations among Bronx Science sports teams have been minor, but the shift towards a culture of student-athlete appreciation has changed that. The celebrations have made seniors’ seasons, across all sports, that much more memorable.

As Harper Prentice ’22 wound her leg back to drive the soccer ball up midfield and get it out of her endzone, she had no idea it would be the last time that she ever kicked a ball for the Bronx Science Girls’ Varsity Soccer team. 

In the opposite vein, Melanie Chuu ’22, starting outside on the Girls’ Varsity Volleyball team, was well aware that the plays of the Championship match would be her last. But that made it all the more special. At the end of the game, she wiped tears of joy from her eyes as the crowd to her left arose in a standing ovation, waving their green pom-poms with fervor, shouting “Congratulations!” across the gym to her and her team. She could finally exhale. The Girls’ Varsity Volleyball team had done it, defending their City Championship for the first time in our school’s history. 

Although the last game of their season was undoubtedly a good one, many of the senior volleyball players felt stunned. Their season — their life in volleyball at Bronx Science — was over. “There is still the bittersweet feeling I have, knowing that even though we closed out the season phenomenally, it is my last year with these girls,” said Sarah Derkach ’22, starting middle blocker of the Girls’ Varsity Volleyball team. The realization was one that was shared among all senior athletes as their recent fall seasons approached their ends.  

Above the Bronx Science courtyard stands the Bronx Science Girls’ Varsity Volleyball team, who had a historic and victorious season this year, defending a City Championship for the first time in school history.

Many senior players and captains have now said goodbye to the teams they have known, built, or worked their way up through the ranks of, for years. Some students joined sports to simply add another activity to their résumé, to become more physically fit, or to use up some of their extra time and explore a new hobby. But sports teams become much more than just an extracurricular after all the necessary time and investment. 

Prentice, the senior captain of the Girls’ Varsity Soccer Team, reflected, “I joined soccer in the first place to win and to have fun playing the sport I love, but now that the season is over, the thing that has been the hardest to leave and that I miss the most is the team itself, because it really was and still is my family.” 

At their last regular season soccer game of the year, the underclassmen of the Girls’ Varsity Soccer Team honored their senior players with posters, with which they pose above. With such a large senior class, the soccer team will have a large Homecoming crowd in November 2022, along with many open spots for new players next year.

School sports enable students to continue or enhance their already-present athletic careers, established by club sports. But many students found even more value in their school sports teams than they have felt with their club teams. 

“I have felt way more comfortable and connected with the school soccer team and environment because even though we are competitive and want to win, it’s still always ‘student over athlete,’” said Prentice. She elaborated, “Whereas on a club it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the competition or isolated if you don’t really know anyone, everyone comes to school sports with a similar attitude — that it should be fun, a way to meet friends, and that you should always strive to be the best you can be.”

Bronx Science’s fall sports teams had a superb showing during this past 2021 season: Girls’ Varsity Volleyball defeated John Jay High School Educational Campus, capping an undefeated season with yet another City Championship; Boys’ Varsity Fencing won the City Foil Title and came in fourth in the city; Girls’ Varsity Swimming made it to the Semifinals, just missing the victory by a mere two points against Brooklyn Technical High School; Boys’ Varsity Badminton produced a record-breaking season⁠ — coming just short in Semifinals⁠ — but still ended up with all of their starters ranked Top 10 in the city; the Girls’ Varsity Soccer team had an impressive showing, dropping their round 16 game in a close match to Bard High School Early College; and the Boys’ Varsity Soccer Team produced a valiant 7-2-1 record, dropping their playoff match to John Bowne High School in a tight 1-0 heart-wrencher. 

It was a big year for senior student-athletes, as this was their last chance to play for their school teams during their high school careers. Returning to playing fields was a huge deal for some players, especially after not having a full season in Fall 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “It feels that the four years are not fully complete, since my team and I were deprived a year of our sport,” said Derkach. 

Although student-athletes are known for their skills on the field or court, some of the best team memories are made off of it. Here, the Girls’ Varsity Volleyball Team poses after spending a Potluck Friendsgiving Brunch together on a weekend. Team bonding events like these make being a part of a team one of the most valuable experiences of being a student-athlete.

Being a student-athlete in high school is extremely demanding, requiring a high level of focus, diligence, and time management. Some athletes are so overstimulated that when the season ends, they find themselves wondering what to do with their extra time. Others are a bit relieved at the extra time that they now have in their schedules. Either way, the high demand and discipline of a student-athlete is sure to have benefits in the future, especially as seniors look ahead to college. “From the injuries to bad losses, I’ve taken so many life lessons away, the biggest one being about mindset in competitive situations,” said Prentice.

Student-athletes are put into many situations that rarely present themselves in everyday life⁠ — potential injuries, the loss of an extremely important match, and the internal strife of getting yourself to focus when other things in life may not be going your way. But they adapt and persevere, a defining aspect of their character, and a sign of potential for tenacity and resiliency in their future.

The high intensity of competition and the need to overcome mistakes teach athletes how to persevere and to keep a level head. “Adversity is inevitable; it’s important to be able to move on past it and understand that you still have a future ahead of you for improvement,” said Branden Chen ’22, captain of the Boys’ Varsity Badminton team, recalling the lessons that he has learned from his years of playing badminton. 

Similarly, Chuu credits volleyball for teaching her the values of hard work and improvement because of its highly competitive atmosphere. “I started off very inexperienced. I barely made the team during my ninth grade year — and now that I look back on it, I realize why,” she chuckled, “but I was still learning, and that was o.k. If I had not made the team, I might have quit, so making the team was like a catalyst for me to continue working to become better.” When Chuu saw other experienced players on her team performing so well, she was inspired to work towards her own goal of becoming a starter. Through three years of commitment and diligence, she achieved that goal. “I got to start this year, which was awesome. That was my goal; I wanted to start. I wanted to be able to contribute to the team, and to earn points. I wanted to be able to say that ‘I’ve done that,’” she said. “I’ve learned that I don’t have to be comfortable with where I’m at⁠ — even if things are going well. You don’t have to settle; you can keep on working to get to that next level,” she said.

In the gym of John F. Kennedy High School, Melanie Chuu ’22, the starting outside player on the Girls’ Varsity Volleyball Team, jump-serves a ball in order to start a rally. Chuu has had an inspirational volleyball career at Bronx Science. She barely made the team as a ninth grader but worked her way through the ranks and became a starter — and also one of the biggest contributors to the team’s November 2021 City Championship Title.

Injury plays another part in teaching student-athletes valuable life lessons, especially about self-care, health, and dealing with frustration. Derkach and Prentice both experienced injuries during their past seasons. Derkach recalls, “From broken fingers every year to throwing out my back, I have played volleyball with consistent injury. However, being on the team, especially as a starter, taught me to balance my injury and my sport. I had to learn to step back if I was injured.” 

Before their Semifinal match at Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, senior Sarah Derkach (right), starting middle blocker on the Bronx Science Girls’ Varsity Volleyball team, tapes up a broken finger. Derkach has dealt with injuries often throughout her volleyball career, but she believes that it has taught her valuable lessons about balance and about listening to her body.

Prentice learned the value of mental strength as a result of her injury. “I had a stress fracture in my tibia over the past summer, so coming into the soccer season was my first time exercising in a few months, and I had a lot of injuries pop up during the season,” she said. “The injuries definitely taught me the importance of patience, because as much as you want to jump into a game and help your team out, you would only be hurting them by risking making a minor injury worse,” she said. “It’s really easy in sports to get worked up over a loss or an injury that’s frustrating, but it’s ultimately not productive and leaves you focused on what you could have done — looking into the past — rather than what you can do, and being proactive about the future things you do have control over,” Prentice said.

The experience of sitting on the sideline as your team struggles for a win can be extremely frustrating, but sometimes the lessons and mental strength one takes from them are for the better in the long-term, such as the values of patience and balance that Derkach and Prentice learned. Undeniably, all of these lessons will serve these students tremendously in their futures. “Learning to not be egotistical or underestimate competition [from volleyball] is vital for any career that I hope to pursue, as it will teach me to remain on my toes, to be humble, and to be prepared,” said Derkach. “I also learned that starting at the bottom does not predict the outcome. As someone who started as an unofficial player on the volleyball team, I worked my way up to become a starter in my senior year. That growth will play into my future, and remind me to not assume that I will never get better — that if I work hard enough, I can succeed,” she added.

The experience of being a captain for your school team is another memory certain seniors will recall, wistfully. “My favorite part of being captain was just getting to be more involved with the team and to work more closely with our coach. I loved being surrounded by the team at all times and getting to be more vocal during practices and games,” Prentice said. Chen saw his captain position as an opportunity to establish a transparent, welcoming culture for his badminton team. “I wanted to emphasize an environment of vulnerability and acceptance. I wanted my teammates to know that it was okay to feel emotional after a loss and that we did not need to always put up a tough front in order to be good players,” he explained. 

Three senior Captains of the Girls’ Varsity Soccer Team — from left to right: Norah Smith ’22, Harper Prentice ’22, and Norah Maher ’22 — pose with their Senior posters from their Senior Night game, or their last home game of the season. “I loved being surrounded by the team at all times and getting to be more vocal during practices and games, because of my role as a captain,” said Prentice, reflecting on her role as captain throughout the Fall 2021 season.

Through the countless practices, workouts, wins, losses, team dinners, and everything else that these athletes shared with their teams, their character and discipline has been solidly built. As they start to look forward to their next chapters, the seniors will find that sports will likely take up much less of their time. Aside from the few athletic college commits of the senior class, the intensity of sports in these students’ college lives will be less than what it was during their high school athletic careers. Some are considering playing in college clubs, while others are letting go of their sport entirely, and intend to take part in other physical activities in order to stay fit in college. Derkach, Prentice, and Alexandra Zwiebel, provided parting messages regarding their Bronx Science sports experiences as a whole, as they look ahead to a future without a great sports presence, and beyond their memorable team experience here at Bronx Science.

“Thank you for teaching me to respect and appreciate my body’s capabilities, for teaching me to continue pushing despite every disadvantage, and for showing me that it’s always better to be part of a team that supports and loves you at all times, than it is to be alone.” – Sarah Derkach ’22, starting middle blocker of the Girls’ Varsity Volleyball team.

“Thank you so much for being there for me through all four years of high school, and for teaching me to be brave, and that making mistakes is o.k. and an important part of life.” – Harper Prentice ’22, senior captain and starting defender of the Girls’ Varsity Soccer Team.

“If I could talk to soccer, my sport, as if it were a person, I would thank it. During the season, it became such an influential aspect of my life, giving me friends, fitness, and of course, improving my skill. Playing for Bronx Science has been an incredible and irreplaceable experience.” – Alexandra Zwiebel ’22, starting goalie of the Girls’ Varsity Soccer Team.

At the last game of their season, the underclassmen of the Boys’ Varsity Badminton Team honored their Senior players with posters, which they posted to their Instagram account. Along with the new and improved celebrations for seniors, the addition of team Instagrams has enabled seniors to document their seasons, and encouraged more in-game and post-game photography — both elements that have added new dimensions to seniors’ experiences, and thus another embellishment to their memory of Bronx Science sports.
(Josephine Kinlan)

Wherever they go and whatever they do, these students’ futures have been inarguably shaped by the athletic accomplishments of their high school sports seasons. The Bronx Science community cannot wait to see how those experiences will take shape in each student-athlete in the years to come.

“Playing for Bronx Science has been an incredible and irreplaceable experience.”