Old Bridge boys’ volleyball team continues dominance with second straight state title

Logan Albrecht leaped high above the boys’ volleyball net and spiked the ball off the arm of a Fair Lawn High School player on the other side.

The ball ricocheted off the player’s arm and bounced onto the hardwood at South Brunswick High School on June 6.

Albrecht flexed his arms in triumph and ran to the middle of the court to hug and shove his Old Bridge High School teammates.

The purple clad Old Bridge crowd, which filled most of the bleachers on one side of South Brunswick’s gym, roared and jumped for joy.

With Albrecht’s spike and kill, the Knights finished off their 2-1 victory in the NJSIAA State Championship.

Old Bridge won the first set, 25-19, dropped the second one, 25-17, and showed its championship mettle in the decisive third set, winning it 25-18 against the school from Bergen County.

The Knights had that championship mettle because they were already champions.

Old Bridge’s victory on June 6 capped off the program’s second consecutive state volleyball title.

Coach Andrew Hopman’s team defeated Southern Regional High School, 2-1, in the 2018 NJSIAA title match, the program’s first ever state crown. Old Bridge is 74-7 over the past two seasons.

Sophomore Aaron LaPlaca said it best after the state championship match.

“We won New Jersey,” he said, smiling wide. “We’re champions.”

In 2019, Old Bridge also won the NJSIAA Central Jersey Tournament with a 2-0 home victory over Hunterdon Central Regional High School in the championship on May 31. Before that, the Knights won the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament with a 2-0 triumph over Saint Joseph Regional High School of Metuchen on May 18 at South Brunswick.

Hopman’s club also won those titles a year ago.

“It’s just hard work,” the coach said. “These seniors are just winners.”

“They are winners,” he added. “That’s all they’ve done since they were freshmen…is win.”

Six senior starters, Albrecht, Andrew Zaleck, Justin Tuohy, Josh DeWitt, Robert Pawlowski and Filip Cizek, transformed Old Bridge into the best boys’ volleyball program in the Garden State. And the group dominated in 2019.

Zaleck and Albrecht finished the season with 457 and 241 kills, respectively, posting 13 and 11, respectively, in the state title match. Tuohy racked up 880 assists this spring, including 34 against Fair Lawn.

The seniors loved playing together. They were almost happy that the state title match went to a third set. They certainly weren’t panicking about it.

“We knew we just had to stay mentally strong,” Zaleck said. “We knew it was our last time playing together, so we said, ‘Just give it all you got.'”

“I wish I wasn’t a senior right now,” Cizek said, shaking his head. “This is the best team I’ve ever been a part of. I love these guys.”

“I wish I was a junior or not a senior,” Pawlowski added. “I’m going to miss all these guys. We’ve been playing since we were freshmen.”

About a half hour after Old Bridge’s victory on June 6, South Brunswick’s security and cleaning crews had to slowly usher the Knights out of the gym. But the celebration was only beginning.

The Old Bridge seniors skipped their senior class trip to Disney World to play in the state tournament. None of them seemed to regret that decision.

“I’m pretty sure we got a police escort, a fire truck escort, waiting for us,” Hopman said. “So the sacrifice wasn’t for nothing.”

“Nobody in Disney is going on this ride,” he declared.