by Ed Kensik
For the Montclair Local
The Montclair Kimberley Academy girls soccer team is looking to collect some titles and is ready for a run starting in September.
For the Cougars, they hope last season was a taste of things to come this season.
The Cougars (10-5-3) came in third in the powerful SEC American division, only behind champ, West Orange and Montclair, last season. And MKA fell short of the Non-Public North B state title game, losing 1-0 to Villa Walsh in the sectional semi-finals.
“We have good experience and club level players making up the starting 11,” said MKA head coach Jordan Raper. “We have good, skilled players and speed in main positions.”
And for Raper and the Cougars, playing until the last game (Non-Public B group title) is the ultimate goal. “To win as many games as we can, and especially to win the last game of the season in November,” added the MKA head coach about what the target is for this fall.
Leading the way of the returnees are a pair of seniors, goalkeeper Arianna Jobst and midfielder Alexis Riley who were both All SEC American first-team players.
The pair will be counted on to try to beat out Montclair, Livingston and West Orange to win the division. The division actually might come down to the last schedule regular season game at West Orange on Oct. 21 (4 p.m.).
Riley is one of the team’s leaders and will be playing soccer next fall at Holy Cross University. “She will bring a lot to the team on and off the field,” said Raper about the midfielder who can also play defense. “She is a set-piece specialist.”
One of the key pieces on a soccer field is in the nets. The 2019 MKA are blessed with the return of Jobst. “She is a great shot stopper and leader in the back,” added Raper about the keeper who had eight shutouts and made more than 150 saves in 2018. “She will bring experience and a presence to the team.”
Both Riley and Jobst have a buddy coming back in their area.
Jobst has sophomore defender Chloe Skipper returning to help Jobst in the back. Skipper was named to the All SEC American second team as a freshman. “She has strength, speed and reads the game very well,” said the MKA head coach.
And helping Riley in the midfield is the return of sophomore Marisa Snee who also garnered All-American second team honors.
For Raper, he will have to replace his top goal scorer graduated senior Ally Raff who had five goals. The top scorer coming back is junior defender/midfielder Abigail Clothier with four goals while Snee and Riley chipped in three goals each last season. Riley and Snee had the top assists in 2018 with four each.
And scoring along with staying away from the injury bug will be key ingredients to a big 2019 for the Cougars.
“We need to stay healthy,” said Raper who added about the scoring where MKA scored a goal or fewer in 10 games last season. “We need to put the team first and score goals.”
Helping out Riley in the midfield, are senior Ciara Daly and junior Julia Conforti.
And leading the attack is junior forward Sarah Hobbs, along with possibly one of the top freshman in the SEC in Sofia Vinasco. The pair leads a quick striking attack that will hopefully increase the scoring this season.
In front of keeper Jobst, there is sophomore Chloe Skipper and junior Stella Marshall on defense.
Before the season starts, Raper needed to replace two key pieces in senior Jaime Fuchs, one of the team’s captains, and sophomore Martine Gulliver who both suffered season ending injuries.
And Raper and the Cougars will be looking to go another round or two in the Essex County Tournament. MKA fell to Livingston in penalty kicks in the county quarterfinals in 2018.
Like the SEC American, the top division in the county, MKA will have to beat out the likes of Livingston, Montclair and West Orange to bring home the county tournament championship. West Orange defeated Livingston for the 2018 ECT title.