by Andrew Garda
The Montclair High School girls soccer team advanced to the semifinals of the Essex County Tournament with a 2-1 win over Mount St. Dominic on Saturday, Oct. 21. At the same time, the No. 5 seed Montclair Kimberley Academy girls team beat No. 4 seed Glen Ridge in overtime, 2-1.
The two local teams were slated to be in semifinal action Wednesday night after press time, MHS battling rival and No. 3 Livingston, MKA facing top-seeded West Orange. The county final is this Saturday, 7 p.m., at Caldwell High School.
Both of last Saturday’s quarterfinal games were rematches of ones which took place earlier this season and both ended with the same score as that earlier game.
The game between the No. 2 seed Mounties and the No. 10 Mount St. Dominic resembled their last meeting in more than just the score as well.
During both matches, the Mount excelled at slowing down the pace of play, disrupting MHS’ passes and clogging up any passing lanes. The result during the first half on Saturday was a visibly frustrated Mounties team that seemed unable to sustain momentum.
To make matters worse, keeper Amelia Platt was called for stepping outside the box with the ball in her hands, setting up a penalty kick which the Mount put into the net.
“It was an unlucky mistake,” coach Eric Weintraub said after the game. “Maybe it’s my fault as a coach, maybe I need to watch her feet when she’s punting the ball more in practice, so we can go over things like that, the little things, so those hiccups don’t happen. Live and learn. Hopefully won’t happen again, and I’m glad the girls won today.”
Despite the early mistake, Platt would bounce back and make multiple good saves to preserve the lead late in the game.
Still, the team struggled, which Weintraub attributed to the determination of their foes.
“They play hard, they fight to the end. They don’t give up and they played a good game.”
The grinding, determined play of the Mount kept MHS from scoring until the closing seconds of the first half when Sydney Masur scored on a nice header to tie the game up.
The Mounties team that came out in the second half appeared to be a more determined one, and nearly scored on several chances early on, but Mount St. Dominic was able to survive with some good defense and timely goaltending.
MHS kept the pressure up, though, and it felt like only a matter of time before they found the back of the net.
Which, with 21 minutes left in regulation, they did when Claire Manning scored on a rebound off a Mia Rodriquez-Vars scoring chance.
The Mounties had done a good job of getting into the box and trying to generate second chances on rebounds, and this was the moment it finally paid off.
For Weintraub, it was the play of his more vocal leaders that helped the team hold together and pull through the tougher patches.
“It’s huge,” Weintraub said after the game. “Syd [Masur] opened her mouth and Nora [Giordano] is always talking a lot and that helps out. We just needed to stay positive throughout the entire game. If we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it together. We’re going to win together, we’re going to lose together. It’s a team effort and we have to come out and we have to play, as I’ve said all season, from the first whistle to the last whistle.”
COUGARS GET THEIR R-E-S-P-E-C-T
While being the No. 5 seed heading into the ECT is nothing to sneeze at, the MKA Cougars felt it wasn’t the seed they should have received.
“We felt slighted about not receiving a top-four spot,” coach Christie Welsh said on Tuesday. “And when I spoke to the girls about that I said, ‘Look, it’s a little bit about respect. And you’re not respected enough in the eyes of others, that’s fine. So now you just go out and do the work.’”
Doing the work is just what MKA did, with a 5-0 win over Orange on Monday, Oct. 16, followed by a 2-1 win over Newark Academy on Thursday, Oct. 19.
With the Cougars’ small numbers, those extra couple of games can make winning the ECT a bit harder.
“The difference between getting a four seed and not is you have two extra games during the week,” Welsh said. “When we’re dealing with the roster size we have, it’s tough. [But] they have responded really well all year.”
They did so again with their 2-1 overtime win against Glen Ridge.
GR plays a very physical brand of soccer, and last time around the Cougars were knocked off their game, which is much more possession and ball-movement based. The officials called a tighter game last Saturday, though, and while MKA saw its fair share of penalties, they were allowed to do what they liked to do on the field, which then turned into scoring chances, though those didn’t always result in goals.
“I thought we had a good handle on possession for most of the game with the exception of a few here and there,” Welsh said. “We had two headers off free kicks and one that went off the cross bar so we were close a few times.”
Sometimes they were close enough for a goal to find the back of the net but, unfortunately, Glen Ridge was able to tie the game with just a few minutes left.