by Andrew Garda
Montclair Kimberley Academy head boys lacrosse coach Paul Edwards already has his pre-season “Most Valuable Player” candidates in mind, but they aren’t who you’d expect.
“Our two facilities guys have plowed Van Brunt every time it snows,” he said during a recent phone call. “Believe it or not, we’ve been outside for every practice, which is amazing to me. I thought we’d be in the gym most of the time. They’ve done an awesome job.”
That’s a tactical advantage worth mentioning for a Cougars team that needs time on an actual field to get its chemistry right.
MKA lost some key pieces to graduation following a 2018 season that saw them compile a 13-7 record, and they’ll be moving up to the Super Essex County’s American Division. The top SEC division, the American features tough opponents like West Essex, Seton Hall Prep, Glen Ridge and Caldwell.
It makes for a tough schedule, but Edwards thinks that works in the Cougars’ favor.
“A strong schedule translates to a toughened team,” he said, “ And playing in the Essex County, Prep B and Non Public B State tournaments, carrying [that] tough schedule only helps us come tournament time.”
Edwards said that losing goalie Alex Melitz, and defenders Nico Espinoza-Dice, Harrison Walker and Mike Hermo make the defense the more uncertain side of the ball.
“Looking at goal, we have junior Griffin Weil who returns,” Edwards said. “He was our JV goalie the last two years, and he’s worked very hard in the offseason to be in the position to step in there behind Alex. And we have a real good freshman goalkeeper coming up from our middle school — Jake Pryor. So they’re both taking a crack at it, and we have two very strong candidates to fill in behind Alex in the goal.”
In front of them the keys will come in the form of returning defenders Ethan Gross and Adam Erbs, who might be playing with a big chip on his shoulder after missing last season with an injury he incurred during basketball.
“He came back, played football and basketball, and he’s ready to go on the defensive side,” said Edwards.
Along with them will be captain Max South, as well as Parker Santo Domingo, who Edwards is looking to fill in as the fourth pole on defense. Edwards is hoping South, who played both defense and midfield in 2018, can contribute on both ends of the field again this year.
Reloading the Offense
While it didn’t suffer as many departures as the defense did, the offense isn’t quite intact.
“On the offensive side [there were] two very significant losses for us,” Edwards said. “ Ryan Dancy, a four-year starter for us, and Jason Gertz, also a four year starter for us. Ryan had 47 points last year and he was our third highest scorer, while Jason had 36 points, which made him the fifth leading scorer.”
While the offense suffered some hits to its depth chart, the top scorers remain.
Jake Waldman was a freshman last season, but led the team with 59 points. Senior Christian Breitweiser, another captain for this year’s squad, was the second leading points-scorer with 53 points.
Zack Kirsch led the team in goals with 41, and Edwards expects the attacker to lead the way again this year. Midfielder Rollins Heath will anchor the middle again this year along with OB Sedransk and Dylan Halls.
Backing them up will be Danny Arcilla, who can play midfield and attack, and Danny DeAngelo, who mostly played defensive midfield last year.
Taking care of faceoffs will be Alex Stetkevych who took 213 faceoffs, winning just under 50 percent of them.