Old Bridge High School lost in the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament girls’ lacrosse championship on May 10 at East Brunswick High School, 10-6 to North Brunswick Township High School.
The loss was a surprise for the top-seeded Knights, but they still have a chance to make 2019 the best campaign in program history.
Coach Steve Gajewski’s team is 16-2 going into the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group 4 sectional tournament. That is already the best mark in school history, and the Knights are the No. 2 seed in the state sectional field, so they have a chance to make a deep state sectional run as well.
“These girls have a good chance to leave a great legacy here,” Gajewski said.
The 17th-year coach acknowledged how strong the North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 field is, with quality teams such as top-seeded Bridgewater-Raritan High School and a talented Hillsborough High School squad. But Old Bridge earned its high seed among these great programs with a 15-game winning streak leading up to the GMC title game.
Old Bridge beat 11 of those opponents by double digit goals, too. The Knights have an all star team of scorers who can compete with any team in North Jersey Section 2, Group 4.
Sophomore Ella Sblano led the team with 63 goals in 2019. Senior Abigail Zimmerlink paced the Knights in points with 59 goals and 23 assists. Senior Lindsay Shafer lit up opponents with 46 goals.
Junior Rachel West contributed 30 goals and 12 assists. Junior Melissa Moukios recorded 21 goals and 10 assists.
In most games, opponents had no idea who to focus on. The Knights would pass the ball around in the offensive third until they found a driving lane.
“They play well as a group,” Gajewski said. “There’s a lot of talent and they don’t care who scores, as long as we score.”
“We work well,” added Shafer.
“We’re better than ever now,” Zimmerlink said.
That’s a true statement, but Old Bridge does have one achilles heel, one kryptonite: North Brunswick. The Raiders accounted for both of the Knights’ losses in 2019, in the GMC title game and in a regular season at Old Bridge on April 1, 11-7.
Old Bridge scored double digit goals in every other game this year, or in all 16 of its victories. In the Raiders, the Knights simply met their match. But Gajewski’s team did also beat North Brunswick this spring, 18-8 at Old Bridge on April 20.
This is all still relevant because the Raiders are in line to be the No. 3 seed in the North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 bracket. So the Knights will probably have to play the Raiders one more time.
“We split the season series and they were both good games,” Gajewski said. “We have a lot of respect for North Brunswick. They are good and it’s a good rivalry.”
But no matter what happens moving forward, these Knights have already left a legacy at Old Bridge. They have transformed the program into a consistent contender.
It started with these seniors, like Zimmerlink and Shafer, and trickled down to the rest of the program.
“They have absolutely elevated the program,” Gajewski said. “We have consistently gotten better, and now the younger kids have something to aspire to.”