by Andrew Garda
The Montclair Kimberley Academy girls lacrosse is just getting started in their preseason, but they’re doing it in style.
The Cougars are down at Disney World in Orlando, Fla. at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex this week. For head coach Chelsea Intrabartola, it’s about more than rubbing elbows with famous mice and avoiding potential bad New Jersey weather.
“It’s a busy week for the girls, but also really good team building,” she said via phone Tuesday afternoon. Mornings and early afternoons are for practices and scrimmages — Tuesday saw the team face the Hotchkiss School from Connecticut — but the team gets plenty of free time in the afternoons as well to spend time getting to know each other.
And of course, visit the park.
“We only do the parks for a couple hours and don’t go too crazy or do it every day.”
In the next few days the team will continue to practice and scrimmage other teams from both Connecticut and New Jersey before heading home for their first game at home against Glen Rock on March 30.
Senior class farewell
MKA returns eight seniors this year, with veterans across all position groups, after losing just three seniors to graduation.
Lily Pryor, Kirsten Zeug, Ally Raff, Claire Linaugh, Reilly Hughes, Rylie Frieder, Megan Palmisano and Sam Brady have been with Intrabartola since she arrived in 2015.
“They were my freshman my first year coaching and now they’re seniors. They’ve definitely shaped the program into what it is,” she said. “The senior class has been the heart of our team for the past four years”
The team will need the experience, as they have moved into a division populated with the likes of Glen Ridge, Montclair High School and West Essex.
“This is definitely going to be our most competitive schedule that we’ve had since I’ve been here in terms of who we’re playing,” Intrabartola said.
The Cougars aren’t worried, though, and Intrabartola said they thrive on tough opponents.
“They’re tough teams, but it’s also exciting because I think we’re going to have a team this year that is able to compete against them and beat these tough teams.”
Offensively, the Cougars bring back Claire Linaugh, who has been one of their top scorers each of the last two years and is a leader among the attackers. Her efforts will be bolstered by Palmisano and Brady, who will be in the mix as well.
At midfield Pryor and Zeug will be the foundation of the line, though Intrabartola said they can fit in anywhere. She said the two stepped up their play and leadership their junior year, and have already been doing great work this preseason as senior captains.
“They’re our go-to middies. Actually, they are our go-to players everywhere on the field to be honest,” Intrabartola said. “When you watch one of our games, those are the two you spot right away. We’re definitely leaning on those two to control things in the midfield and to keep doing what they’re doing.”
Also returning will be junior Bella Liu and sophomore Taylor Everson.
The defense lost Alix Talkow and Katie Gyves to graduation, but will be returning Raff and Frieder as well as Katie Hipp and so far in the preseason, Intrabartola said the unit hasn’t missed a beat.
“Communication from [goaltender] Reilly Hughes to the defenders and amongst each other, it’s looking good right now,” the coach said. “We’re just growing on everything we did last year.”
Hughes continues to impress in net as well, and her coach said that given she only started playing the position her freshman year, her progress is impressive.
“Her confidence, I would say, is the biggest thing which has improved and made her a stronger player,” Intrabartola said. “She’s a senior captain this year as well, so going into this season in that leadership role has been really helping with her confidence. She knows the little things she needs to work on, but after today’s scrimmage it’s clear she’s been working hard during the offseason.”