by Andrew Garda
Sometimes the ball just doesn’t bounce your way, and that’s just what happened to the Montclair Kimberley Academy boys lacrosse team in their 15-14 overtime loss to Rutgers Prep in the first round of the Prep B Tournament on Monday, May 13.
Freshman goalie Jake Pryor was in perfect position to save the shot from Argonauts attacker Danny Varga. However, when Varga let loose, the ball ricocheted off someone in the slot — it was unclear who — and popped up softly in the air. Pryor, who had taken a few steps forward, scrambled backwards, reaching with his stick, but the ball went just out of reach and into the net.
While he gave tremendous credit to Rutgers Prep, calling them a well-coached and talented team, MKA head coach Paul Edwards said that had the Cougars buckled down in regulation—specifically in the first half—the outcome wouldn’t have been left up to a bad bounce.
“I told the boys, you don’t want to put yourself in a position where something can happen that’s out of your control,” Edwards said. “Like a shot that hits somebody and goes in the goal. You want to take care of business while you have the chance.”
The Cougars made things tough on themselves early, when they came out sluggish in the first half. The driving rain and cold weather likely played a part, but both teams had to play in it and the Argonauts didn’t seem to have issues, posting five goals on MKA in the first quarter, while the Cougars were only able to cobble together a pair.
Things seemed to turn around offensively for the Cougars in the second quarter, as they found the back of the net five times, but defensively MKA continued to struggle, allowing an equal number of goals to Rutgers Prep and the Cougars trailed 10-7 at the half.
You could hear Edwards and the other MKA coaches trying to fire up their charges during halftime and whatever they said seemed to work.
MKA scored the first three goals of the third quarter, tying the game with 10:10 left in the period, two of which came from sophomore Jake Waldman, who would end the day with four goals and four assists.
The Argonauts responded with a goal of their own, but MKA tied it again and the two teams were deadlocked at 11 heading into the fourth.
The two teams traded goals in the fourth until the Argonauts scored with just under two minutes left and then burned a lot of clock while keeping the ball away from MKA.
Things looked grim for the Cougars, until sophomore OB Sedransk slipped the ball in with just 13 seconds left in regulation.
Then came overtime, where both teams had chances until Rutgers Prep got the ball to bounce in the right way to propel them forward to the finals in the Prep B Tournament.
“I thought we played the second half with a lot of emotion, but I don’t think we played the first half with much emotion at all,” Edwards said. “ I think [Rutgers Prep’s] talent and the difference in the way we played in those two halves made the difference in the game.”
The season isn’t over for Montclair Kimberley, though, and Edwards said the key to succeeding going forward—especially in the NJSIAA Non-Public B Tournament, where MKA snared a two-seed—is attacking every quarter with the intensity the team showed in the second half of this game.
“There’s no Xs and Os in that, it was just heart and wanting it,” Edwards said. “And they played that way in the second half, and now the rest of the season, we’re in playoff lacrosse time. The state tournament starts now, and it’s win or go home, so we’ve got to play with the heart we played with in this second half and we’ve got to eliminate the coming out slow and waiting to see what it’s going to be like kind of a thing.”
The Cougars get a bye through the first round of the NJSIAA Tournament, and will meet the winner of the game between No. 7-seeded Oratory and No. 10-seeded DePaul on Wednesday, May 22.