BY ED KENSIK
FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL
The Montclair Kimberley Academy field hockey team wants to add on to one of the best seasons in the program’s history.
The Cougars finished with a 15-7-1 record in 2018, which included reaching the Essex County Tournament final and the Non-Public North semi-finals.
“Last year was a great season for us,” said MKA head coach Gia Nappi. “We accomplished a lot and definitely had one of the best seasons we’ve had in years.”
But the Cougars will need to find scoring with an unexpected loss this season.
Montclair Kimberley will be without its top scorer from 2018 in junior Lindsey Yu who led the team in goals and assists with 21 and 19 respectively, but has an injury. Yu was named to the All SEC American first team and the All New Jersey Region second team.
“Lindsey is an all around amazing player,” said Nappi. “Her leadership is something that we will definitely miss this season.”
In addition to Yu, the Cougars lost some key graduated seniors like Kirsten Zeug, who was also named to the All SEC American division first team in 2018.
But Nappi and MKA still have plenty of firepower to duplicate and hopefully add on to 2018’s success.
“Coming into this season, we are a young team, but still very talented,” said Nappi. “The keys to having another great season are keeping our confidence in the same place as it ended last year, having tons of communication on and off the field and working together as a unit.”
And the MKA head coach believes they still will be in good shape to make a run for the Essex County Tournament title.
Nappi has a good mix of youth and experience when the season starts on Sept. 7. There are eight total freshmen and sophomores to go along with six seniors this fall.
“Our team goals for this season are obviously to win the Essex County Final, but also to continue growing our program and improve from last year’s success,” said Nappi. “We want the girls to understand that winning is important, but getting better each game and being able to push yourself to the next level is the most important thing. We want them to continue to increase their confidence in each other, as well as in themselves. They’re doing a great job already and we’re excited to see where the season takes us.”
With the injury to Yu, the top player back this season is senior center back Amanda Mack who garnered All SEC American second team nod.
“Amanda is a great leader both on and off the field,” said Nappi. “Her communication and skill are key for our team this season. She always gives 100 percent and that feeds off onto the players around her. She is exactly what our team needs this year, considering we are very young. Her along with our other seniors are going to make a huge impact on our younger players.”
The top holes to fill of the graduated seniors this season are Zeug and goal keeper Gigi Jacobson.
In replacing Jacobson, the MKA head coach has handed the keeper duties to sophomore Chloe Lebovitch. “Chloe is a strong keeper who has experience playing at the club level for many years,” said Nappi. “She is a sophomore, but her skill level is much more mature.”
Without Zeug and Yu, Nappi will be banking on seniors Natalia Eichmann and Michelle Medawar to take another step this season. Both have been starters for the past three seasons. Eichmann, a midfielder, was the second leading scoring in 2018 with 11 goals and nine assists.
One of the pluses for the 2019 Cougars is the versatility with seniors Medawar, Christina Cusmai, Nathalie Wilson and Julia Hansen, along with a group of freshmen and sophomores who are able to play throughout the field. Cusmai could be in line for more offensive production after collecting nine goals and seven assists in 2018. “We’re excited to have the opportunity to move people around and not having a specific lineup for each game,” said Nappi about utilizing players like Cusmai up and down the field.
For this season, MKA has three freshmen, Caroline Murphy, and Sophia Eichmann and Natalie Yu, who are the sisters of Natalia and Lindsey respectively. The three freshmen join five sophomores on the varsity this season.