Physical contest revives Old Bridge, East Brunswick rivalry

The rivalry in field hockey between Old Bridge High School and East Brunswick High School may have been renewed.

That point was made when the the programs engaged in an intense game on Oct. 2 in East Brunswick.

“It could be [a rivalry],” East Brunswick senior center defenseman Callie Luftig said. “After today, it very well could be. We’ll see. It was a pretty intense game. There were a few elbows and pushes. We just need to keep our composure, play through them and let the refs make the calls.”

Both teams received several green cards from the referees in a game that was eventually won by Old Bridge, 1-0.

Old Bridge junior center midfielder Abby Zimmerlink assisted on the only goal of the game when she connected with junior right forward Mikayla Van Horn in the opening minutes of the game.

East Brunswick coach Cindi Todoroff was not happy with the style of play in the game, stating that she was highly disappointed with how the matchup turned out.

“I wasn’t pleased with my team today,” Todoroff said. “I wasn’t. We played too sloppy and too slow. Credit to Old Bridge because they forced the issue, but still. Plus, there’s too much contact out there. It’s unnecessary, just unnecessary. There’s too much contact on both teams, and that’s not necessary in hockey. So from a hockey point of view, that nonsense with the swinging and the elbows and the mug faces; I’m not happy. I’m not happy, and I don’t think the Old Bridge coach is either.”

Old Bridge coach Danielle Toth agreed that the game was more physical than she would have liked, but she was pleased that her team was able to fight through the adversity to get the victory.

“I don’t promote being physical on the field,” Toth said. “It’s all about using our skills and showing it that way. But things get aggressive, and you get that adrenaline going; there’s always going to be physical moments.”

Besides the physical play, Todoroff wasn’t happy with her team’s execution on offense.

“We had our opportunities, and we didn’t connect on any of our opportunities,” Todoroff said. “[We] didn’t even come close. We probably had more scoring opportunities than they did. We definitely had more corners than they did. Again, credit to them for pushing the issue. They were quicker than us today to the ball. That’s good because we’re now going to build from that. But I’m disappointed in my team today.”

Todoroff was pleased with the team’s defensive effort.

“Our defensive corners were good,” Todoroff said. “We didn’t let them score off defensive corners, so that was good. At times, we moved the ball as well as we ever had down the right line side and crossed it. There were some nice things going on there. We defended them well today for sure. The back matchups ran circles around us the first time we played them, so I’m glad we shut that down better this time.”

Toth thinks that her girls are focused and ready to take the next step.

“It was a high-intensity game,” Toth said. “My team was together. We had put our focus on what we want, and we want to win the [Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC)]. Every day, we get better and better. They’re starting to put it together. They’re seeing the prize, and they’re getting after it.”

Toth hopes that the two teams can meet again in the postseason.

Old Bridge was also victorious in the previous matchup between the two teams this season, topping East Brunswick, 3-1, on Sept. 7 in East Brunswick.

“Our goal is to take each game one at a time,” Toth said. “We’re looking for the GMCs. We’re looking to come back hard. And we hope to be back here on Oct. 16 for the finals.”

Zimmerlink was proud that her teammates were able to thrive despite the physical play.

“Today’s game was very high intensity,” Zimmerlink said. “There were a lot of cards. We don’t back down. If they give a lot of high intensity, we give it right back. We don’t let the other team step on us.”

Zimmerlink believes that the game just proved that the Old Bridge-East Brunswick rivalry is alive and well.

“It’s always been a rivalry between Old Bridge and East Brunswick,” Zimmerlink said. “This game just proves it.”

Old Bridge played at home against South Brunswick High School on Oct. 3, winning, 6-1, and visited Piscataway Township High School on Oct. 5 in a losing effort, 3-2.

The Knights return home to meet South Plainfield High School on Oct. 10 and travel to Metuchen High School for a game at 4 p.m. on Oct. 12.

East Brunswick rebounded at Sayreville War Memorial High School on Oct. 4 with a 2-0 victory over the Bombers. The Bears hosted South Brunswick on Oct. 6 and picked up another shutout, 3-0.

The team traveled to Metuchen on Oct. 9 and hosts Monroe Township High School on Oct. 12 at 7 p.m.

Old Bridge sits at 8-5 overall on the season and 8-4 in the GMC. East Brunswick’s record is 7-4-1 overall and in the conference. The two schools are third and fourth, respectively, in the GMC.

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