by Andrew Garda
The Montclair High School girls soccer team is on a roll. Two games into the 2017 season, the Mounties are 2-0 with two impressive victories to their credit.
It’s even more impressive when you consider that multiple juniors left the team for unknown reasons just prior to the season. Coach Eric Weintraub won’t comment on the situation, but one thing is clear — his group isn’t missing a beat.
While the 4-3 overtime win against Caldwell was impressive, the real shocker was upsetting Livingston during the teams’ Sept. 7 meeting by a score of 3-2. The defending Essex County and North Jersey, Section 1, champion Lancers swept the Mounties in 2016, and this was a game many of the MHS players had circled on their calendars.
“Playing Livingston is always a crazy game because it’s always a personal game,” senior defender and captain Nora Giordano said after the victory on Thursday. “We’re always pretty evenly matched. Last year they beat us three times, so this year we really wanted revenge. And we got that today.”
It’s not enough though, not for Giordano, not for fellow senior captain Rebecca Van Siclen — who has scored four goals in two games — and not for Weintraub.
“We come back tomorrow, crack the whip and get right back at it,” he said after the Livingston win. “It’s just one game and I’m pretty sure we’ll see Livingston again whether it’s in the county or state tournament. They’re a real good team and I’m just happy for my girls.”
So the team got back to work on Friday, the result of which was their second win over an opponent many thought would be too much for a suddenly young Mounties squad.
“I think being such a young team, nobody really thought we’d come out and do what we did today,” Van Siclen said after the Livingston win. “But everybody on the field worked hard, our freshmen worked hard, our sophomores worked hard, our juniors worked hard and our seniors worked hard.”
The most impressive thing about both games so far is how the stage never looked too big for Montclair. Back in August, when the team faced Immaculate Heart Academy in its first scrimmage, the younger players sometimes looked timid and unsure.
Those traits were nowhere in evidence in either of the first two games.
“I think we’re lucky enough to have all the freshmen that came in and play with us. All eight came from a very high level club atmosphere,” Van Siclen said. “So right when they come on the field, they know how to work, and they already have that good soccer IQ that’s needed at a high school level.”
Weintraub praised all his freshmen team members, and said both Emma Belsky and Claire Manning did a great job during Thursday’s win. Manning also contributed the first goal during Saturday’s match and both players spent much of both games flying around the field.
Weintraub credits his captains with the development of the younger players.
“It’s like having coaches on the field,” Weintraub said of his captains. “Nora, Becca and Jill [O’Toole] — I couldn’t ask for better leaders. They’re leaders on the field, they’re great leaders off the field and they’re just good kids.”
Giordano said she and the other seniors simply drew from their own freshman experience.
“One thing I took with me from freshman year was that we were expected to play against seniors and girls three years older than us,” she explained. “So we brought back that kind of philosophy this year. That when you step on the field it doesn’t matter what grade you’re in. You have to just go for it. That’s what we told them. Just play with confidence and don’t worry about what grade you’re in.”
While he’s excited about his team, Weintraub and his captains are making sure they aren’t getting too far ahead of themselves.
“We won today, we’re happy, but that’s just one game and there will be many more. We haven’t won the championship yet.”