Congratulations from everyone in the NJIC to Bogota Volleyball Coach Brad DiRupo on earning his 500th Career Victory !!!
Through seven matches this season, Bogota hasn’t had to play catch up too often. Aside from a two-set loss to Immaculate Heart, the team hasn’t trailed after the first set.
That wasn’t the case on Friday night against West Morris.
Bogota, No. 7 in the NJ.com Top 20, dropped the first set by six points, having to rally in the last two, 25-16, 25-23 to knock off No. 14 West Morris in Bogota.
In the minds of the Bogota players, it was just another match to put in the win column for a team with aspirations of a state title down the road. That is until coach Brad DiRupo broke some news to them.
“I have two things to say to you,” DiRupo said he told the team. “First of all, you showed that when you’ve lost a set you can come back. If it ever happens again and you play with heart and desire, you’ve shown that you can do it. Second of all, this is a special group like every group, but your group happens to be the group that I won my 500th match with.”
With that, the team erupted to celebrate a significant milestone for their coach, who had this number on his mind and was admittedly nervous once things got underway.
“I was aware of it,” he said. “Did I feel pressure today? I’m not going to lie, I did. I was actually nervous for 500. I wasn’t that way until we first started warming up, but I didn’t want to put that on my team. No one knew going into it. I just kept it quiet.”
The match itself was a big boost of confidence for a team that learned a hard lesson in a 25-14, 25-13 loss to Immaculate Heart on Sept. 11.
“I think my kids grew up that day,” DiRupo. “We played in the tournament against them and I don’t know if my kids were at that level yet, but they’re getting there. That’s why I like to play these kind of teams because you either sink or swim. I think my kids are getting to the level of being a state championship team.”
The team has won six in a row since then, only dropping one set in the process, but tonight was a night to celebrate and reflect on how much the program has grown, at least once everybody knew the significance of the win.
“It’s a wonderful thing,” said DiRupo, who recorded all 500 of his wins with this same Bogota team. “It’s a wonderful thing for the school, it’s wonderful thing for the kids, but this is a testament to all the kids here that I’ve coached that have always been committed and put a lot of work and time into it. That’s why the program has been successful.”
When DiRupo took over the program in 1999, it was enjoying success at the league level, but not much beyond that. In his second year, though, things started to trend upwards.
Bogota made it to the county semifinals before losing to Hackensack, but it went on to beat Paramus Catholic for third place. That was the springboard the program needed. As time progressed, DiRupo and his players realized that in order to be elite, the team needed to play club. So they did, until it became too expensive in the mid-2000s.
That’s when DiRupo decided to start one himself through the rec program after talking it over with parents of the players. What started as a middle-school program evolved into something much more and it has pushed Bogota into the realm of New Jersey elites.
“We first started with a middle school program and then when the high school kids could afford it, we went up to a 17-year-old team,” DiRupo explained. “Now we have teams with 14s, 15s, 16s and 17s. When you go to William Paterson, they’re all club teams. I tell my girls if they want to play a club schedule, then you have to play club. If you’re not going to do that, we’re not going to go up against these teams. That’s where the commitment comes in.”
That commitment paid off in 2006 in the form of the team’s first state title in a win over Midland Park. Not surprisingly, it’s one of DiRupo’s favorite memories from his career so far. Another big moment for him came with a victory over Immaculate Heart to win the 2012 Bergen County title.
Six seasons later and Bogota is a perennial contender to take home a state title, but DiRupo is quick to point out that it takes a dedicated group of players to build that kind of consistency day in and day out.
“I have been fortunate, blessed to have wonderful kids here that have worked extremely hard and have been committed to Bogota volleyball,” DiRupo said. “That’s the reason why I have 500 wins.”