by Andrew Garda
The weather continues to be uncooperative for the Montclair High School girls lacrosse team, but this past weekend they finally found enough green space between piles of snow to put together some practice time and a scrimmage against Lakeland High School.
The delay in getting outside has slowed the process down for head coach Ann Jennings, as she tries to assemble her varsity squad for the 2018 lacrosse season. With the departure of last year’s seniors, Jennings is faced with finding replacements, and while there’s plenty of talent to choose from, getting the right fit takes time.
Luckily, Jennings knows she has plenty of veteran talent to lean on during both the preseason and during the regular season.
“It’s great, we have a lot of returning starters,” Jennings said in between halves of the Lakeland scrimmage. “We’re missing some kids from last year, but we have our goalie, Olivia Lynch. We have Nora Giordano, Nanatte Walls-Tarver, Missy Wrede, Jen Heath.”
Lynch, Giordano, Wrede and Heath are the four captains Jennings will be relying on the most.
“They’re good leaders, starters from last year,” she said. “Really, kind of the glue of the team.”
Some of those leaders provide a glimpse of what the younger players can shoot for, if they work hard. Giordano has already signed her National Letter of Intent to Lehigh University, while Lynch has verbally committed to Colgate University and will officially sign in April. Jennings said that motivates the younger players.
“We’ve had a lot of girls go off, and play Division 1, play in the Ivies, or play in good D3 schools,” Jennings said. “Having [the younger players] see that and making that be a goal to reach and saying you can do it.”
Jennings can also look to some younger players to step up as well.
Walls-Tarver is a sophomore who had a lot of success last season, scoring 19 goals in 19 games, and adding 11 assists to her totals. She’ll be joined by fellow sophomores Abby Romano, Yael Gelmnan and junior Maddie Crane. Walls-Tarver and Crane are the two most experienced of the second group Jennings talked about, but the others are expected to contribute early and often for the team.
“We have a good foundation, and now it’s just adding to that for this season,” Jennings said.
Getting the right group together is one of the keys for Jennings and her squad this year as they look to build on 2017.
Jennings feels like they had all the pieces last season, but the youth of the team ended up tripping the Mounties up.
“I think having some young girls, the inexperience of the game hurt us in the end, especially in the counties,” Jennings said. “Being able to compete and knowing how to compete. That comes with maturity and playing more, which I think this year we have more.”
More than almost anything else, Lynch’s goaltending is going to be key against a tough schedule filled with top teams like Glen Ridge, West Essex and Ridgewood.
“It was unfortunate for her when she tore her ACL as a sophomore, so she lost that year,” Jennings said of Lynch. “Last season, she was getting back into it and there was a lot of pressure to be the starting goalie.”
If Lynch was feeling the pressure during the scrimmage on Saturday, she didn’t show it, barking commands out to the defense and deflecting shot after shot.
Jennings was pleased to see her netminder in regular season form.
“Hearing her out here today, she’s such a good leader,” Jennings said. “She’s talking the whole time and she’s really the leader of our defense. And to have that now, have even more confidence, knowing she is going on to play the next level, and all the hard work she’s put in to get here, it’s nice to see.”