by Andrew Garda
WEST ESSEX—Montclair Kimberley Academy’s girls lacrosse team fought hard and never gave in, but Glen Ridge proved itself too tough in Saturday’s Essex County Tournament championship and the Cougars fell to the Ridgers, 12-9.
While MKA fell short of a title, there was still plenty to celebrate as their appearance in the title game was the first ever for the program.
“We had a ‘why not us, nothing to lose’ mentality and I’m really proud of the way they played,” said head coach Chelsea Intrabartola.
This was the fourth game that week which MKA had played in, and they came into this game with a short bench, as two key attackers were out.
“So we have to move around midfielders to attack,” Intrabartola said. “We had to do a lot of what we hadn’t been playing in recent games.”
The two teams spent much of the first half trading goals, with each team gaining the lead at least once. For MKA, the goals didn’t just come from the usual suspects like Lily Pryor — though she would score twice, once in each half — but from players like Taylor Everson and Patricia Columbia-Walsh.
For Intrabartola, having any player able to step up and provide offense has been a hallmark of the Cougars this year.
“That’s one of my favorite parts about the group this year — we don’t need to rely on just one person,” Intrabartola said. “It’s great when one of the girls steps up, and they do all the time. And they’re willing to put the team on their back. We have a lot of contributors, a lot of girls who aren’t afraid to take the ball and put it in the back of the net.”
As the first half began to wind down, a few things happened that would start to allow Glen Ridge to put some distance between themselves and MKA.
First, Pryor was knocked down in front of her own goal. While she lay on the turf, play continued, and her outnumbered teammates were unable to stop the Ridgers from scoring to tie the game. Though Pryor was down and the Cougars shorthanded, the officials didn’t blow the whistle, though the MKA coaching staff was unclear as to why they didn’t given there was a player down in the defensive zone.
Pryor would be out of the game on the sideline for around three minutes, and during that span Glen Ridge scored three more times, making the score 8-5.
Once Pryor returned, the Cougars made another offensive push, with Kirsten Zeug finding the back of the goal, making the score 8-6 with 1:46 left in the half.
Then came the second moment that changed the course of the game, as Glen Ridge fired a shot at goalie Reilly Hughes from about 20 yards out, just as time expired.
One of the officials would later say that had this been last season, the goal wouldn’t have been allowed, as it is very difficult to know for sure if a shot like that happened before the clock ran to zero.
This year, it seems the ruling leans towards allowing the goal, though, and Glen Ridge entered halftime with a 9-6 lead.
During the quarterfinal round game against Montclair High School, MKA found itself behind several times, but always clawed their way back in.
For a moment, it certainly seemed as if that might happen again, with Taylor Everson scoring her third goal of the day to make it 9-7 with 24:18 left in the game.
The two teams went back and forth for 10 minutes before Glen Ridge scored again. Hughes was able to make the initial save, but on the rebound, MKA knocked the ball into their own net.
After that, things began to unravel, as MKA caught several penalties and Glen Ridge took advantage with goals.
While the Cougars kept fighting, the clock kept running and though they added a couple more goals, eventually they just ran out of time.
“I’m so proud of them, they fought and they never gave up and they made it a game,” Intrabartola said. “I so believe we can beat this team. I’m proud of them.”
With the Prep Tournament as well as the State Tournament still ahead, Intrabartola feels that even though this was a loss, it could be something they can use to turn a corner.
“They weren’t afraid going into this game,” Intrabartola said. “Glen Ridge has a little more experience in these types of games. For us it was a little new. But I think it’s just opened a lot of doors for us. I think it will fire us up going into the rest of the season.”