by Andrew Garda
The Montclair Kimberley Academy boys lacrosse team moved up to the SEC-American Division this year, a challenging jump no matter how talented a team is.
The first few games of this season, though, the Cougars (1-1) have had to face their opponents without some of their top players. While it’s not the whole reason they fell to Caldwell 9-6 on Thursday, April 4, it certainly had an impact.
“Jake Waldman has been out,” head coach Paul Edwards said. “He got hurt during the winter season, but he should be back soon, he’s been rehabbing. He was our leading scorer last year, so we’re looking forward to getting him back.”
Two of their captains are out as well. Ethan Gross and Max South have both been hampered by ankle injuries.
“Not taking anything away from Caldwell, they’re excellent and they were terrific,” Edwards said. “That’s hard and it really shortens the bench pretty quick.”
Caldwell is a very good team, and it was going to be a tough job beating them even with a healthy team. The Cougars fell behind early, down 6-3 at halftime, but they refused to give up. Even with being down men, MKA continued to play aggressive, tough lacrosse.
“We moved up into the American Division this year, and games like Caldwell, we’ve earned the right to play those types of games,” Edwards said. “That’s what I told the guys afterwards. Those [games] are fun. They’re played at a different level, the intensity and the pace of the game is a lot faster than some of the other teams we might play from time to time. But that’s great, it gives you a chance to get better when you’re playing games like that. So I was really happy with the way the guys competed. They never backed off.”
The Cougars were helped out by their goalie tandem of junior Griffin Weil and freshman Jake Pryor.
Edwards said there’s no set rotation in goal and, as they did on Thursday, the team could switch them at any time.
“We have a two-headed monster in goal,” Edwards said. “And we’re gonna have the guy in at any time who we think has the best chance to be successful and that can change minute to minute, half to half or game to game.”
The Cougars need to work a little more on cutting down on the clear shooting lanes to help their goalie out, but if they can do that, they clearly have some offensive scoring threats even with Waldman out.
Dylan Hall finished the game with a pair of goals as did OB Sedransk. Zach Kirsch and Christian Breitweiser each added a goal as well. Parker Santo Domingo and Rollins Heath each had an assist.
Despite the loss, the Cougars have a lot to look forward to this season.
And that includes a special edition of their rivalry game with Montclair High School 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 13, at Van Brunt Field.
While the teams will be competing on the field, they’ll also be joining together to raise money for the American Brain Tumor Association (ABTA.org).
The teams are hoping they can bring attention to people suffering from brain tumors and the ABTA. The funds raised allow the ABTA, which helps bring resources to patients and their families, fund promising research studies and to conduct nationwide brain tumor educational programs.
The event was inspired by the death of Patty Strain, who along with her husband Jon, had been a longtime fixture in Montclair lacrosse at all levels.
“We dedicated our season to Patty last year as she was in the final stages of her fight with cancer, and used her refrain of “Play Your Game” as our rallying cry,” Edwards said. “When she passed away, one of our seniors, Zach Kirsch, said to me that he had just lost his grandfather to brain cancer and wanted to do something.”
With Kirsch spearheading the effort, MKA reached out to the MHS program to see if they could already make a great rivalry even more meaningful. Edwards said MHS head coach Mike Diehl didn’t hesitate to say yes.
Edwards and the team is hoping this is just the beginning of what they can do to raise awareness and money to help patients and their families.
There is no charge to attend the event, but T-shirts will be on sale for $25, and MKA alum Shannon Fry O’hara’s food truck will be on site, with all proceeds from both sales going to ABTA.