by Andrew Garda
Slow starts have been a consistent issue for the Montclair Kimberley Academy boys lacrosse team, and it was their downfall last Saturday, May 25, when they lost to an underrated Morristown-Beard team, 15-12 in the NJSIAA Non-Public B semifinals.
“I think we went down, like, 7-2 in the first half,” head coach Paul Edwards said after the loss. “We won the second quarter 4-1, got it back to a couple of goals. I told the boys at halftime, we had a bad period in there, you put it behind you and you played a good second quarter, and now we need to play that way the rest of the game.”
The two teams traded goals in the third quarter, with MKA keeping things to within a couple of goals, but at the 6:12 mark of the third, MB’s Luke Smith scored the first of three Crimson goals in a row.
By the time MKA’s Zach Kirsh scored for the Cougars with 1:37 left in the third, MB was in complete control and they never relinquished it again.
“[Morris-Beard] are playing their best lacrosse at the right time of the year,” Edwards said. “I watched their film against Newark Academy and Immaculata, and that’s what you want to do. You want to peak, and have it so you’re playing your best lacrosse right now. I give credit to [their staff] and their players. I think we were playing our best lacrosse right now, but we didn’t play it for 48 minutes and that comes back to haunt you.”
Morristown-Beard has now won three straight games against higher seeds in the NJSIAA this year.
There were plenty of bright spots for MKA on the field, as there has been all spring. Sophomores Jake Waldman and Rollins Heath each scored four goals all of which were huge in keeping the Cougars in the game. Freshman goalie Jake Pryor made some very nice saves and has really shown a tremendous amount of improvement over the course of the season. Seniors Christian Breitweiser and Zach Kirsch both stepped up as well. Breitweiser had a goal and a pair of assists, while Kirsch had two goals.
While the Cougars will lose a large senior class, there is a lot of potential in the young players they will still have next season.
More than anything this season, the resiliency of these players has really stood out to the coaching staff, something Edwards is particularly proud of.
“We’ve talked about it a lot. We never give up, we never stop playing until the final whistle regardless of what the score is,” Edwards said. “I think the boys really believe. I heard three or four times during timeouts or huddles. It’s four goals, come on, it’s only four goals, look at all the time we’ve got left.
Whatever is happening, they really have a belief that they’re going to be able to pull it out. I think that is the character, part of the culture of this team, and I’d like to think the culture of the program too, that they believe it’s in their grasp to make it happen.”
While proud of his team, Edwards had hoped to give his seniors one more game.
“We’ve got a great group of seniors,” Edwards said. “We just talked about that [post-game]. It’s a great team, [and a] close team. No drama. Everybody just wants to be here and shows up, gives great effort and they’re a great group of seniors. They’ve been a big part of the program and the biggest disappointment is we don’t get to go one more step for those guys.”