Old Bridge unfazed by defending champion Cinnaminson

Old Bridge's Shilan Shah connects against Cinnaminson Thursday. Photo by: Mark R. Sullivan

Old Bridge’s Shilan Shah connects against Cinnaminson Thursday. Photo by: Mark R. Sullivan

OLD BRIDGE — Playing the defending NJSIAA Central sectional champions didn’t seem to faze the Old Bridge High School boys volleyball team on Thursday.

Behind the stellar play of co-captains Aiden Albrecht and Junior Oboh, the third-seeded Knights rallied back from a seven-point deficit in the first set to defeat Cinnaminson 2-0 (27-25, 25-17) and advance to next Wednesday’s semifinals, where they’ll meet Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament champion East Brunswick.

“We came out point-for-point (in the first set) then we made a few unforced errors on over-passes, where we tried to attack the ball and we just couldn’t make it work,” Old Bridge coach Andrew Hopman said. “I coached an aggressive style today and I asked the players to play that way. So we fell behind a bit in the first set and that’s when I said to the guys that we needed our big guys to step up.”

One of those big guys was Albrecht, who received a pep talk from Hopman during the first set.

The senior captain, who will play collegiately at Penn State next spring, didn’t want this to be the last game he played in high school.

“I knew that as a captain I had to do whatever I could to pull us out from that big hole and lead us to victory,” Albrecht said. “They were playing really scrappy and I just had to keep on hitting and just stay after it.”

Hopman made it clear that when his squad needs a boost, they just have to look for No. 13 in black.

“It’s not rocket science, when he’s hot, get it to him,” Hopman said. “And I told Aiden before the game that all of the camps and clinics he’s gone to since he was in eighth grade were all for days like today. I told him that’s he that good and he needed to take over for us. In practice, when I say the losing team has to run, Aiden takes over because he doesn’t want to run. So I told him that if we lose this game, he’s running and he turned it on.”

Oboh, the Knights’ other co-captain who will play his college volleyball at Princeton, came up with a pair of huge blocks at the end of the second set to thwart Cinnaminson scoring chances. In all, the front line of Old Bridge was just too much for the sixth-seeded Pirates, who tried to will themselves to victory by chanting and jumping around between points.

“I felt that because Cinnaminson does a lot of chants and a lot of running around, that if we got up on them, they would go down. But you can never count them out; you have to bring your ‘A’ game to beat Cinnaminson,” Hopman said afterwards.

Now that they’ve taken care of Cinnaminson and moved into the semifinals, Old Bridge’s reward is playing East Brunswick for the fourth time this season. The second-seeded Bears have taken all three previous meetings, including a 2-0 decision in the GMCT semifinals. Albrecht kept it simple in explaining how the Knights have to play to continue their season.

“We just have to play a lot tougher,” he said. “We lost three times to them this year and we have to remember how it feels to lose and give it our all. There’s nothing left after this.”

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