MATAWAN – The first set of the match between the Old Bridge High School boys volleyball team and West Windsor-Plainsboro South was over in a flash. The second game, while closer, was never in doubt and the Knights looked primed to enter another tough part of their schedule.
The Knights defeated West Windsor-Plainsboro South 25-9, 25-19 at Old Bridge High School on Tuesday.
Old Bridge (12-3) knows that they have to be on top of their game and took extra practice before the match. Dante Whipple, who leads the Knights with 110 kills, wants to get things right.
“We felt pretty good out there today like usual, but we had a couple of things to clean up on so that’s why we actually got some extra practice before the game. Cleaned up on some things and that translated into the game,” said Whipple.
It’s hard to see any glaring problems, but Whipple insisted that there are things that can be corrected. The team chemistry looks great and Whipple credited it to being such good friends.
“My teammates are great. We’re friends both on and off the court so we have a good chemistry and we have all different weapons,” said Whipple.
Whipple is one of the Knight’s best weapons along with teammates Ronit Hemrajani and Robbie Meyers, who have added 96 and 79 kills respectively. Chaz Franqui leads the team in assists with 279.
Old Bridge coach Andrew Hopman can tell that his team is doing well when they communicate. That has allowed for all those different pieces to come together and look as dominant as they were on Tuesday.
“The guys know that if we’re constantly communicating, that we’re going to play better. I think that something we’ve had from day one is good mental toughness. Even when we lost to East Brunswick, we still played great. We don’t fall apart,” said Hopman.
The next game for the Knights is against East Brunswick. The Bears won the first meeting in a close 2-1 match. Old Bridge is ready for the rematch.
“Looking forward to it. It’s important to us because it shows that in the beginning of the season, we were a good team, but it shows how we have improved as the season has gone on,” said Whipple. “If we can get that win, it would be really important to us.”
Hopman added, “We look forward to all GMC matchups. It’s GMC and Central Jersey. You put those two together and that’s an important matchup. Anyone from the GMC is an important matchup.”
The Knights follow up that game with a stretch of games against South Brunswick, Hunterdon Central and St. Joseph (Met.). Old Bridge was able to defeat the Falcons earlier in the year with a convincing 25-15, 25-21 victory, but the goal is to beat St. Joseph in the playoffs.
“It’s important to be them in the playoffs. Our goal is to win the Central Jersey State Championship,” said Hopman.
Whipple added, “St. Joes is usually one of our important matchups, so we’re always looking forward to that.”
Old Bridge was defeated twice in the playoffs by the Falcons in the GMC final and the state semifinals. Two wins against them in the regular season could be a huge confidence boost.
The Knights have also taken something from their losses. Their other two losses came from Southern, one of the toughest teams in the state.
“We took a lot from that. You learn a lot more from a loss than you do from a win. We learned that we have to play better defense and I think we’re doing that,” said Hopman.
Navigating the rest of the schedule will be difficult, but Old Bridge is ready to take on all comers. There is no looking to far forward. Performing their best in the playoffs is the goal, but the Knights won’t take any regular season game for granted.
“We don’t overlook any teams. We always take it one team at a time and each game is important to win,” said Whipple.
“We feel good where we’re at,” added Hopman. “We made some adjustments. That’s the great thing about playing great teams, they’ll show your weaknesses. We think we’re on the right track.”
Staff Writer Matt Silva: firstname.lastname@example.org