by Andrew Garda
VERONA—For the second year in a row, the Montclair High School girls lacrosse team clashed with its opposite number from Glen Ridge High School in the Essex County Tournament finals. The Mounties came into the game on a four-game win streak and fought hard to make it five in a row, but the Ridgers found a way to win, and MHS fell 11-9.
If Glen Ridge thought they would be able to repeat the easy 14-5 win they had over Montclair back on April 23, they were sorely mistaken. While the Mounties had struggled to adjust to Glen Ridge’s physical play last time out, they were well prepared this time around.
“Each day we worked on one more strategy, one more scenario that we could possibly come up against,” assistant coach Susan Murnick said after the game. “I think they needed that time off to just rest mentally and physically, and just to prepare.”
Murnick was filling in for head coach Ann Jennings, who was at her son’s college graduation, but the Mounties machine continued to run smoothly in her absence, a testament both to the long week of preparation, as well as Murnick’s ability.
Each time Glen Ridge responded to a Mounties goal or play, Murnick and the staff had an answer. More than anything though, the coach was proud of how her team responded to the challenge.
“Getting to the finals, we had to play through those five overtimes against West Essex, which just really confirmed for them that they could do it,” she said. “And that if they dug deep enough, they could hang anywhere. I think they came out with an intensity, and really tried to take control of the game.”
The two teams traded goals throughout the first half, each taking the lead several times. By halftime, Glen Ridge led 6-5, but it was clear the Mounties weren’t going anywhere.
The second half saw some amazing efforts by the Mounties, both as a team and individually. Abby Romano scored two of her four goals during the half and Nora Giordano scored twice off of penalty stoppages.
In the end, though, Glen Ridge was able to find the net just a couple more times, sending the Mounties home disappointed.
For Murnick, it’s important for the team to realize what they were able to accomplish. Not long ago, the Mounties had looked completely outmatched by Glen Ridge, but after the multiple overtime win against West Essex and the close game in the ECT finals, she said the team should believe they can play with anyone.
“I told them, as coaches, we are very proud of them,” Murnick said. “We are proud of the way they battled and they know what they have accomplished here. So we’re just going to build on what you saw what you can do today. It’s only going to get better and better.”
That improvement could help the team greatly in the upcoming NJSIAA Tournament.
Still, no matter how improved the group gets, they will have to lean on seniors like Giordano and Olivia Lynch.
“It starts with Olivia in goal, if she’s on then the momentum carries forward,” Murnick said. “If Nora’s on, I think she also helps to keep the energy high on the field.”
Along with her three goals (and five points total) in the game, Giordano became the Montclair High school girls lacrosse leading scorer and total points leader, breaking Catherine Williams 2008 record of 185 goals and Kayla Jennings 2015 record of 255 total points.
Giordano added to her totals on Monday during MHS’ 8-7 win over Mountain Lakes.
For the Lehigh commit, her career totals stand at 187 goals and 267 points.
As tremendous a legacy as that is, Giordano has worked hard to leave behind a solid foundation for a very young, and sophomore-heavy team.
And she wasn’t alone.
“My veterans and my seniors have really set and example for my younger players,” Murnick said. “And they know what they can do and how to work and become better every day and every game. I think we have a nice bright shiny future ahead of us.”
It’s a future, which could involve tough Glen Ridge team an awful lot, as the Ridgers also have a very young team.
That’s just fine as far as Murnick and the Mounties are concerned.
“This is the way the finals should be. It should be two evenly matched teams really battling it out.”