by Andrew Garda
The Montclair High School girls soccer team got their season off on the right foot last Friday, as they beat longtime rival Livingston High School 1-0 in front of a boisterous crowd.
With the boys game having been moved to Friday due to heat, head coach Ashley Hammond said the girls didn’t expect a large crowd, but he knew the Mounties faithful would show up.
“I said ‘listen, you’re talking a couple hundred people will come and watch you.’ They said ‘No way, there will be 50 people.’”
After counting the number of heads in the stands, Hammond said there were easily 150 people.
“So I was a little bit off,” he said. “I thought 200 people would come and maybe if the boys aren’t playing, we would have had [them] there and we would have gotten up to 200.”
The boys and girls teams are easily each other’s biggest fans and can often be seen at their opposite games.
Even without the boys, the crowd’s energy got the girls excited.
That reached a crescendo when Sydney Masur caught a rebounded pass off a defender and threaded the ball between the defender, the goalie and the post for a score.
Hammond wasn’t quite ready for the reaction to the goal.
“When the goal was scored, I was in front of the bench and it scared the crap out of me. The girls erupted off the bench,” Hammond said. “All of a sudden this volcano of noise occurred behind me and just made me jump because I just wasn’t expecting such a huge noise. I relayed that story to them later, and they thought it was hysterically funny.”
Hammond said that Masur’s technique on the goal was flawless.
“It’s much harder to make [a goal like] that than it is to miss it. She volleyed it into literally the only hole that was available, so it was just brilliant technique,” Hammond said.
The Mounties couldn’t relax though, as there was still 20 minutes remaining in the game.
“You can’t pick when you score, but I thought with 20 minutes to go it was going to be an incredibly long 20 minutes and it was,” he said. “Because Livingston, that [goal] bucked them up. Then they made our life very difficult for the last 20 minutes. It was tense, to say the least.”
The game itself was a somewhat uneven affair, with both teams alternatively strong and sloppy at different times. Livingston never gave up and fought the Mounties to the last second, pressuring them and attacking the backfield with consistent ferocity.
In the end, though, the Mounties were able to hold them off and come away with their first victory of the season.
“We got what we expected from Livingston, which was real top quality,” Hammond said. “Credit to their coaching staff, because those girls played some lovely football, certainly early on. And it took an awful lot for us to claw ourselves back into the game in the first half, because we were really outplayed early and we looked a little disorganized.”
Where many coaches might hold on tighter when their team is struggling to hold it together, Hammond said he made a conscious decision to hold back a little and let his team work it out themselves.
“The girls were tremendous, in that they managed the chaos themselves,” Hammond said. “Livingston was so good. I thought [the team] did a wonderful job of getting themselves composed in the first half, which could have easily led to us being down a goal or two early. All credit to the girls because I didn’t have to do much to help them, they did it themselves.”
Two key players who stepped up throughout the game were
Both defenders stepped up numerous times during the game to stymie the Livingston rush and help limit the quality shots goaltender Amelia Platt had to face.
Hammond said that every day, one player from each of the three levels — freshman, junior varsity and varsity — are awarded a Susan B. Anthony coin for working the hardest or having the biggest impact.
Masur won it for varsity on Friday, but Hammond said it could have easily gone to Braley and Gittens, or really the whole back four.
The team is hoping both defenders continue to progress together, forming a formidable wall in front of the goalie.
Beating Livingston is a feather in the team’s cap, but it’s an early win and there is a long way to go.
“We haven’t climbed the mountain yet, we’re still at basecamp,” Hammond said. “It’s not job done, just one step on the ladder.”