by Andrew Garda
The Montclair Kimberley Academy boys soccer team is headed to the NJSIAA North Jersey, Non-Public B finals, to be played Thursday afternoon at Passaic County Tech Institute.
MKA, which was the third seeded team, will then face fourth-seeded Gill St. Bernard in the game, which set to kick off at 5 p.m. It will be the third year in a row the Cougars have made it to the finals.
“It’s a good achievement, obviously,” said head coach Rob Leather. “But at the same time we lost both those games 1-0.”
Before they could start thinking about Thursday, they had to overcome Newark Academy on the road on Monday.
“It was a very tight game. Conditions were tough, it was wet and windy,” Leather said. “I think that affected both teams. We were a little passive in the first half, and conceded a goal from a set piece. It was a fairly even game, but I felt like we came out pretty slow.”
Leather said, at halftime he and his coaching staff tried to fire up their team.
“I don’t think we ever panicked in the game, and they actually told me to come down at halftime, which was funny. We encouraged them to be a little more confident, to play with more intensity, more desire,” he said.
It worked, as the Cougars scored just 30 seconds into the second half.
“It changed the complexion. Our confidence levels went up and I think Newark Academy started to panic a little bit,” Leather said. “And then we got two other goals from set pieces, which was nice. Newark Academy had a kid sent off with 15 to 20 minutes to go and that made it really difficult for them.”
Looking ahead to the finals, Leather knows that if they are to change their fortunes and come away with their first win in three tries, they cannot come out slow again. To that end, he’s going to lean on his leadership, which did well against Newark Academy.
“Will Horn did a great job, even as a sophomore,” Leather said. “His leadership has been superb. And Seth [Kaplan] and Dylan [Ladda] definitely settle people’s nerves. And I think the team has a lot of confidence, they don’t panic if they go a goal down. I thought Andrew [Garofalo] was very composed in goal, which sets the tone for the rest of the team in front of him. So, the leadership has been excellent.”