Knights produce dominant effort

OLD BRIDGE — With a spot in the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament finals on the line, the Old Bridge High School girls volleyball team came out with one of its dominant performances of the season. The fourth-seeded Knights never trailed from the start and never looked back, taking out eighth-seeded East Brunswick in straight sets 25-20, 25-15 Wednesday afternoon.

Old Bridge will meet second-seeded J.F. Kennedy at 3 p.m. in Saturday’s final at J.P. Stevens in Edison.

The first game remained close until the Knights got rolling and used an 8-0 run to open the score from 13-10 to 21-10 and essentially put any chance East Brunswick had to rest.

“I feel like it was closer than the score; I felt like East Brunswick played well and I expected after they beat South Brunswick, that we would need to pay a little more attention to them,” Old Bridge head coach Andrew Hopman said. “I realized that they were kind of up-and-down all season; them beating South Brunswick was no fluke.”

Analis Capobainco aided the run with a pair of aces and the steadying play of the middle blockers for Old Bridge helped set the tone and maintain the lead, according to Hopman.

But the star of the match was Marta Belli, whose serves kept East Brunswick off-balance all day long. She helped spur the Knights to a runaway victory in the second set with an early ace, something that Hopman has become accustomed to seeing.

“Marta was the standout today. She just does so many wonderful things for us; she keeps the ball alive, she keeps plays going and we always seem to score on her serves. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s just a hard-to-predict ball because it doesn’t go anywhere, so it’s hard to know where it’ll land,” he said. “The next thing you know, it hits the floor or they make a bad pass.”

East Brunswick, which beat top seed South Brunswick in last week’s quarterfinals, appeared physically spent and just couldn’t make the play when it needed to. The Bears hit the ball into the net on multiple occasions and had no answer for the Old Bridge serves.

“Even though we beat them twice in the regular season, we knew they have good coaches and good players and they have great history, so we were worried a little bit. But we feel that if we serve well, we can win most of our games. If our serving is on, that adds to our confidence,” Hopman said.

John F. Kennedy 2, Edison 0: Much like Old Bridge, second-seeded J.F. Kennedy took an early lead and never lapsed, running away with a 2-0 (25-12, 25-18) victory over 11th-seeded Edison.

“The girls came out focused,” J.F. Kennedy head coach Rob Hugelmeyer said. “Volleyball is all about energy; the team that has it plays well and the team that doesn’t, doesn’t. The girls came out fired up and that was the game plan. I wasn’t talking strategy to them at all, just motivation. We kept the energy and we put the ball away when we had to.”

Jolie Tang was the catalyst for the Mustangs, recording 18 assists and 12 service points, while sisters Cassie and Francesca Garison combined for 18 kills and 10 service points, along with five digs and a good number of blocks.

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