by Andrew Garda
The Montclair High School Boys lacrosse team suffered a tough loss Tuesday night as they dropped the quarter-final round of the Essex County Tournament to West Essex by a score of 10-8.
The 5-seed Mounties fought hard after falling behind by a score of 6-0, tying the game at seven goals before losing in the waning minutes of the game to 4-seed West Essex.
“I’m so proud of the team,” coach John Scanlan said after the game. “We all are. Because we were down 6-0 and we came back to tie it at 7. That’s impressive.”
Both teams suffered from sloppy play at times during the game, sailing passes wide or over the target’s head, dropping balls which should have been caught and missing assignments.
In fact, of the first six goals West Essex scored, at least three were the direct result of unforced errors on the part of the Mounties.
Despite that, MHS wouldn’t give up, even down midway through the second quarter. Instead of hanging their heads, the Mounties fought back, scoring two goals in the last six minutes of the first half.
First, Finn Jensen found the back of the net, scoring off a pass by John Painter. Then, with 4:21 left in the second quarter, Jeikson Boyle scored a nice goal with an assist by Will Shiffenhaus.
The Mounties didn’t score again in the half, but they entered halftime with a lot of momentum, while West Essex began to look nervous.
They had good reason to. While the Knights struck first in the second half, pushing the lead to 7-2, the rest of the third quarter was all Mounties.
After the goal by West Essex, Montclair captain Matt Comini scored during a Knights penalty to make it 7-3 with 9:50 left in the third. A short time later, Shiffenhaus scored, pulling the Mounties to within three goals.
Then, with 43 seconds left in the third quarter, John Painter scored.
Down two goals now, the Mounties pressed the attack, and the result was Shiffenhaus’ second goal of the game with just one second left in the third quarter.
It’s worth pausing to point out that during this time, goaltender Ashton Smith was having a tremendous game. After the first six goals, Smith had become a brick wall, making save after save and keeping the Mounties in the game.
If unforced errors are the story of why the Mounties struggled, Smith’s play was the tale of why they were even in the game late. His play was incredible for most of the game.
As the fourth quarter began, MHS still had the momentum. After another West Essex flag, Trevor Glasse scored and the Mounties found themselves tied, 7-7, with 7:42 left in the game.
Things started to crack a bit for the Mounties after that, as a flag put them a man down, resulting in a West Essex goal (the first since the beginning of the second half). They put another goal in, but Montclair responded with a Dylan Vespole score to make it 9-8 with 1:09 left in the game.
West Essex was able to get possession from the faceoff, and called a timeout with 1:05 left. The clock was not on the Mounties side now, and they had to play aggressively to get the ball, but also be smart about it so as not to end up with a penalty.
Montclair attacked the West Essex offense, but somehow one of the Knights slipped into the slot and was wide open for a pass. Smith had no chance to stop the shot, and West Essex finally put the Mounties down for good.
While the loss was a heartbreaking one for a team which has struggled all season, they fought hard and never backed down or gave up. Neither team did, as West Essex could have hung their heads when Montclair tied things up.
Both teams kept getting back up when they were knocked down, though, and never let surrendered as they fought to the last whistle and either team could have come away with the win.
This is a game the Mounties will probably look back on with a great deal of frustration as one they should have won.
When they do look back at this game, though, they should use it as fuel to finish the season strong. The Mounties team which struggled early this season wouldn’t have come back in this game. This is a much different team, one which should hold its head up high even after the loss Tuesday.
“This team has fight, it has heart. They don’t have any quit,” Scanlan said.