Late in the second half of a girls lacrosse game on April 10 at Old Bridge High School, South Plainfield High School scored a goal.
The visiting team’s players then raced up the field and leaped for joy.
Old Bridge was minutes away from wrapping up a 15-1 victory over South Plainfield. Yet the visiting Tigers were celebrating like they had just won the state title.
That’s how hard it is to earn a small victory against the Knights this spring.
Led by seniors Abigail Zimmerlink and Lindsay Shafer, two of the greatest players in program history, Old Bridge is 6-1 in 2019. The Knights are on a five-game winning streak and they have beaten those five opponents by a combined score of 75-12.
Most Old Bridge games look a lot like the team’s victory over South Plainfield. The Knights control the ball in the offensive third and pass it around for awhile as the defenders just watch, holding their sticks in the air to give the appearance of defense. But the defenders know if they attack the ball, they will probably get scored on.
Once the Knights get bored of passing the ball around, an Old Bridge attack player swoops into the box and fires a shot at the net. It usually goes in, too.
“We need to observe how they play and play like that ourselves in the future,” said South Plainfield’s coach to her players on the bench at one point.
She was merely externalizing the inner frustrations of most Old Bridge opponents.
“We definitely were patient on offense,” said Shafer after the April 10 victory. “And really worked to look for a great shot, not the first shot.”
“It’s just team chemistry,” added Zimmerlink.
Shafer scored three goals versus South Plainfield. Zimmerlink assisted on two goals.
Both players are close to career milestones at Old Bridge, with Shafer three goals away from 100 and Zimmerlink 17 goals shy of 200. They should have no trouble reaching those marks in their last season as a duo.
Shafer, a tall net crasher, and Zimmerlink, a fleet creator, complement each other perfectly, especially since both are fourth year starters with a ton of reps together at this point.
“We know exactly what we’re doing,” Zimmerlink said. “As soon as we look at each other, we have the same thought.”
“Abi’s a very good feeder,” Shafer said. “I cut and she finds me.”
“That’s how we score goals,” she added.
Shafer and Zimmerlink are the fulcrum of Old Bridge’s prolific offense, but there are also dynamic talents swirling around them.
Sophomore Ella Sblano is second on the team in goals with 22. Junior Rachel West has 11 goals and eight assists. Juniors Melissa Moukios and Olivia Pospisil have scored seven and five goals, respectively.
“We have a nice, balanced group this year,” said Old Bridge coach Steve Gajewski. “We have upperclassmen who have played for a few years now, and can handle and score.”
Old Bridge has not yet won a postseason championship during Shafer’s and Zimmerlink’s high school career, so the Knights are sticking to sports cliches for now.
“Our goal is to get better every day,” Zimmerlink said.
But of course they hope that getting better each day leads to the Greater Middlesex Conference championship.
“Yeah, make the finals and win,” Shafer said with a smile.