by Andrew Garda
The season came to a disappointing end for the Montclair high school girl’s soccer team.
On Wednesday, Nov. 7, the Mounties lost 1-0 to third-seeded Livingston in the NJSIAA North I, Group IV semifinals.
“The girls are obviously very upset,” first year head coach Ashley Hammond said after the game. “Make one mistake and pay the price. I thought…we should have had a penalty in the middle of the second half. I think it was a no-brainer. I think the referee got it wrong for us. But the girls were amazing in terms of their effort.”
After an early exit in the Essex County Tournament, the Mounties had done a nice job of getting back on track in the state tournament, defeating Union City and Morristown.
Unfortunately, the Mounties just couldn’t overcome a Lancers goal with just 13 minutes left in the second half, although they did have some chances. Add in an uncalled penalty in the penalty box, and Montclair was left wondering what could have been.
Montclair played their game against Livingston the same way they’d played every game in the 2018 season — with pressure, precise passing and relentless energy.
Unfortunately, one issue — a lack of a scoring striker to finish plays against top shelf teams.
“I go back to the very first conversation we had about the season and we’ve always talked about the fact that we lacked an out and out striker,” Hammond said. “We’ve not had a player that can really go in there and be the out and out striker that we needed to finish to put the cherry on the cake so to speak.”
Luckily, the Mounties did have Claire Manning. Hammond said that while it wasn’t her preferred position, Manning has done an excellent job filling in as striker.
“Claire’s done an amazing job, but at times we’ve just lacked that little bit of cleverness around the box that I think Livingston had today with one of their players. It’s just that we lack that little punch in the middle there at times. The ball was floating around plenty in that box but we just didn’t find a way to stab one home.”
While the wound of the semi-final loss is still raw, Hammond has a lot to look forward to for next season. The experience of this run in the NJSIAA tournament will be invaluable for a young team like the Mounties.
“We’re not just young, we’re very young,” Hammond said. “Eight freshmen or sophomores starting the game is exceptionally young. I’m convinced that they will [learn from this].”
One of the players the Mounties will anxiously watch develop is Molly Brumbach. Amelia Platt was hurt during the second round game against Morristown, and Brumbach replaced her in net for the semifinal match.
“Amelia got injured [last game] and that was unfortunate. I think it forced us to change our game a little bit,” said Hammond.
Hammond had no hesitation putting Brumbach in the net, however.
“We kept her on the JV most of the year playing, so she got minutes,” Hammond said. “We always had an eye on her as a potential backup. We’ve got four goalkeepers, all of which are very good, but Molly established herself in the last month or so as the backup keeper and there are exciting times for her ahead. She’s terrific.”
Unfortunately, this season is over, and Hammond knows his team — especially the seniors — are very disappointed. While there were only a handful of starting seniors, the group really worked hard and led by example.
“Jill, Hanan [Abdellatif], and some of the other girls on the side like Maddie [Adams-Gurowitz] who worked their tails off all year, to have it end like this, I feel terrible for them.”