by Andrew Garda
The Montclair Kimberley Academy girls lacrosse team continued their red-hot start Friday afternoon as they defeated crosstown rival Montclair High School, 11-5.
For the Cougars (6-1, 3-0), it was an opportunity to rebound from their 15-14 loss to New Providence on Wednesday. The Mounties’ record dropped to 1-6 overall this season.
“I think we got a little complacent and kind of started falling back into old habits,” said MKA head coach Chelsea Intrabartola after Friday’s win. “So [the loss to New Providence] was probably a good thing to happen to us at this point in the season. Now we know we’re not invincible, we’re not where we need to be yet and we’ve still got a lot of work to do.”
With Montclair High School looming, the Cougars knew they had to refocus, and quickly.
“Yesterday was a great practice going into this Montclair game,” Intrabartola said.
That showed, as MKA got out to an early lead, with team-leading scorer Claire Linaugh putting the first goal of the game in the net at the 20:45 mark. The Cougars’ Taylor Everson then scored the next four goals of the game before the Mounties finally found the back of the net with a shot off a penalty made by Emily Crane with under five minutes to go.
“I think MKA shot their ball well, they got Jada [Auletta] low,” said MHS head coach Ann Jennings. “A lot of their shots were bounce shots, which I think was tough for her.”
The Cougars struck first again in the second half when Megan Palmisano beat MHS goalie Jada Auletta low at the 23:40 mark to make it 6-1. Nanette Walls-Tarver answered for Montclair High shortly after but MKA responded with two goals of their own—one by Palmisano and the other from Kirsten Zeug off a penalty—to make it 8-2.
MHS wouldn’t give up though. Crane scored two goals in a row before Yael Gelman added to the Mounties total off a pass from Walls-Tarver.
Suddenly, it was 8-5 with 8:24 left and MHS looked like it had the Cougars on their back foot.
“We had a couple of people out today,” Intrabartola said. “So we didn’t have the depth on the bench we’re used to, and I think the girls were getting a little gassed. So we called a timeout to take a breath, get our game back together, get our plan back together. Really we just emphasized composure and playing our own game.”
However, just as they have all season long, MKA responded, this time with back to back goals by Palmisano and Avery Song, putting an end to the Mountie surge.
Everson then put a cap on the game with her fifth goal of the day with under a minute left.
“I think MKA played a good game, they hustled, they wanted it a little bit more than us,” Jennings said. “I think our offense didn’t move the keeper enough. She’s a good goalie but I don’t think we moved her enough, and I think the draws hurt us.”
To Intrabartola, while the scoring was great, it was her defense and goalie which really stood out.
“[Reilly Hughes] had a big game for us,” Intrabartola said. “So I’m really proud of her. And I’m really proud of the defense, who I think don’t get as much credit as they should…They stayed composed, they followed the gameplan, and we knew who their goalscorers were and we were able to keep up with them. Ally Raff, Rylie Frieder, Abby Clothier, Katie Hipp and Riley Hughes in goal, they did their job today and I think that’s what gave us the win.”
Defense has helped the Cougars far outscore their opposition this season by a whopping 107 to 51. Even with the 15 goals they allowed in the loss to New Providence, the Cougars defense and goalie Reilly Hughes have held opponents to an average of just over 7 goals a game while the offense has averaged just over 15.
“We had a 5-0 start, so that’s obviously a great way to start the season,” said Intrabartola. “We put a lot of work in during preseason coming into it, building on last year, making adjustments we needed coming into this year with a tougher schedule. But we’ve been confident in our abilities and working to get better every practice. So going into the season we were ready for it, and that showed in the first five games.”
With a really nice performance against the Mounties, you can see every level of the field humming for the Cougars, who look hard to beat right now. There’s not any one person to focus on stopping on this Cougars squad, as anyone can contribute at any time.
“I think the great thing about this team is we have depth, so we don’t have to rely on one person every game,” Intrabartola said. “That’s great because it can be hard to get a scout on us.”
Losing to a good team isn’t any less frustrating for the Mounties, who have struggled early this season.
“I think right now we’re just having a problem with our offense and moving,” Jennings said. “They just need to find it within themselves that they are a good team with a lot of good players, and they just have to get over this hump. There’s still a lot left in this season.”
Friday’s loss marks the fifth in a row for Montclair High, a team that is much more talented on paper than their record indicates. They’re getting consistently good goaltending from Auletta, but have not been able to put points on the board consistently. Turnovers, bad penalties and inconsistent overall play all have been part of their early woes, and against a tight, disciplined and talented teams like Montclair Kimberley, Oak Knoll and Immaculate Heart, those are things that have cost them games.
Both teams have the weekend off now, picking up their season again on Monday. MHS will take on Chatham on the road at 4pm, while MKA heads to Columbia for their fourth division game of the season.