MKA will be looking to Varsity captain Ben Yanes (11) to lead a young team through a tough schedule.
Photo courtesy of Gene Nann

As Montclair Kimberley Academy’s boys varsity lacrosse team prepares for the 2017 season, head coach Paul Edwards knows they will have their work cut out for them.“This could be the toughest schedule I’ve seen in my 15 years,” Edwards said. Teams like St. Peter’s, Seton Hall and Pingry — the squad that took the MKA team out of the state tournament last season — bring immense challenges, as do teams like crosstown rival Montclair High School.

“This could be the toughest schedule I’ve seen in my 15 years,” Edwards said. Teams like St. Peter’s, Seton Hall and Pingry — the squad that took the MKA team out of the state tournament last season — bring immense challenges, as do teams like crosstown rival Montclair High School.
A tough regular season will serve to make the team battle-hardened for postseason play, though, and last season the team played some of its best lacrosse at that time. Tough losses to West Essex and Caldwell served as a wake-up call, Edwards said, and gave the team a push as it headed toward tournament play.

The biggest hurdle for this team will be overcoming the loss of 10 seniors from last season’s team, six of whom are now playing in college. Replacing those players is the top priority for Edwards and his staff.

Luckily, he has some very experienced athletes to fill their shoes, including some returning starters such as junior Ryan Dancy and sophomore Christian Breitweiser at attack,and senior team captains Ben Yanes and Dominic Romeo at midfield.

Stepping into goaltending duties is junior Alex Melitz. While he sat behind former MKA goalie Rob Strain for two years, Edwards said he easily could have been the starter. A strong goalie is a critical last line of defense, and the team believes Melitz is their guy. He’ll be backed up by Griffen Weil, but is expected to carry the main weight.

The defensive unit will be all new starters, though each has experience on the field. Senior Brian Bond, juniors Nico Espinosa Dice and Harrison Walker will be joined by sophomore Zach Kirsch.

Espinosa Dice and Walker were previously short-stick defensive midfielders, but will make the jump to full-time longstick defense this season. Bond is also a standout football player, and will be playing football at Penn next season.

Dancy and Breitweiser were both starters on attack last year and will fill the role again in 2017. Dancy was the third leading scorer in 2016 with 30 goals and 11 assists; Breitweiser started the second half of his freshman season at attack.They will be joined by senior Jared Levine.

The midfield will be led by Yanes, who was 241 of 381 in faceoffs last season for a .633 win percentage on them. He’ll be joined by Romeo and junior Jason Gertz. With all three starters returning, this is the most experienced unit on the team.

Attack and midfield have big shoes to fill as 63 percent of the team’s goals were scored by players no longer at MKA. That’s 117 goals the team has to find a way to replace.

Other concerns the team faces are a somewhat shallow bench and inexperience. While the team has skill at most of the positions on the field, they don’t have as many experienced backups as they might like. However, with the schedule they play, inexperience will very quickly become a thing of the past.

For a team that went deep into the Non-Public B State Championship Tournament, expectations remain high despite seeing multiple players move on to college. As was the case last year, though, a tough schedule will hopefully pay dividends at the end of the season, when it really counts.

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