MHS senior Finn Jensen fights his way through the Columbia defense during the first half of Saturday’s game against Columbia.

by Andrew Garda

MAPLEWOOD — The yearly battle between the Montclair and Columbia High School boys lacrosse teams is always an exciting affair and this year’s — played at Columbia’s Underhill Field on Saturday, May 12 — was no exception.

It was a chippy, flag-filled affair, which saw both teams trade goals in the first half, but Columbia’s Cameron Herbert dominated the second half as the Cougars beat the Mounties 14-11. The win hands the Gibbs Cup back to Columbia after Montclair grabbed it in a 11-8 win last season.

“I’ve got to give my respect to Columbia, they came out and played with a lot of energy for four quarters,” said Montclair head coach Mike Diehl after the loss. “We only played for two quarters. They were a tough, scrappy team and they earned the win.”

Diehl was definitely impressed with Herbert’s day as well.

“Cam, he’s just a tremendous player and today was senior day, so he was feeling it. Hats off to him,” Diehl said.

There were several standouts for the Mounties during the game, most notably mainstay Will Schiffenhaus. The junior, who will play lacrosse for Navy when he graduates in 2019, scored five goals and added one assist on the day. That’s the fourth time in sixteen games that Schiffenhaus has topped five or more goals, and the ninth time he has scored multiple times in a game. It also brings his season totals to career highs in goals (38), assists (15) and points (53).

Connor McCarty and John Painter also added two goals apiece, with Finn Jensen and Charlie Miller each adding one. Both Miller and Jensen had assists as well.

The Mounties again split goaltending duties between Andrew Skibniewski and Ashton Smith, with Skibniewski working through the first half and Smith, the second. Both netminders struggled with Columbia’s shots, especially anything low, and compounding the issue was a defense which at times gave the Cougars too clear a view of the net.

Junior MHS goalie Andrew Skibniewski directs the defense against Columbia in this year’s Gibbs Cup. The Mounties lost this year’s match 14-11.

When it comes to goaltending and defense, a team has to communicate and play in concert. At times, Diehl said, that hasn’t been as much of the case as the staff would hope.

“Playing a team game has been the issue the whole year,” Diehl said. “We’ve had a lot of young guys in important positions all year and due to experience amd in some part due to skill, it’s been a challenge to play as a team.”

Despite that, he has been pleased to see some progress, especially among the underclassmen.

“Slowly, some of the younger guys are starting to step up,” he said.

There are numerous guys stepping up he said, pointing to both Lucas Podvey and Max Jennings’ play as high points.

Junior Will Schiffenhaus scored five goals and added one assist for the Mounties, but it wasn’t enough as MHS dropped this year’s Gibbs Cup game to Columbia, 14-11.

“Podvey’s a sophomore and has really done a lot for us defensively,” Diehl said of the midfielder. “And he’s beginning to play a little bit better offense for us.”

Jennings was one of a couple of players tasked with trying to contain Herbert in the late third, and fourth quarter and rose to the occasion. When Jennings was on the Cougar goal-scorer, Herbert was removed from the play and rarely a factor. It was an exhausting job, but Jennings, who is a tremendous soccer player and was part of the Mounties Championship football team this past season, stepped up admirably.

“Jennings is another one of the younger players that have stepped up for us, especially on the defensive end,” Diehl said. “He hasn’t played lacrosse since he was a youth player, so this is his first year back. The future’s really bright for him and he does a lot of the dirty work for us.”

Diehl also said, that while some of the other underclassmen still have a ways to go, there’s been improvement.

“There’s a few other younger guys starting to step up but just haven’t hit that level yet.”

The Mounties kicked off NJSIAA North Jersey, Group IV tournament play Wednesday, May 16, after press time. The 11th-seeded Mounties visited No. 6 Ridge.

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