FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL
Many of the 2021 Montclair Kimberley boys lacrosse seniors were on the Cougars team that last won a Prep B tournament.
That was in 2018, and this group of seniors added to their resume when they took care of Princeton Day, 13-8, in this year’s edition of the Prep B final on May 12.
Offensively it was the senior trio of Jake Waldman, Rollins Heath and O.B. Sedransk, who scored six, four and three goals respectively. Defensively it was junior keeper Jake Pryor, who kept Princeton at bay with a dozen saves to take the title.
“It’s great, especially for the seniors,” said MKA head coach Paul Edwards, who is in his last year leading the program. “It was a heightened, intense atmosphere and a huge game for us.”
The last time the seniors played in the Prep B tournament, they lost to Rutgers Prep in overtime in the semifinals in 2019. And then there was the lost season last spring at this same time.
“Winning the Prep B final feels amazing,” Heath said. “After leaving it all on the field sophomore year and coming up short in overtime of the Prep semifinals we have been waiting for the opportunity to get another shot at the championship.”
Before taking the Prep B title, MKA placed its name on the first championship trophy of the 2021 season by clinching the North Jersey Interscholastic Lacrosse League Kimber title by defeating Oratory Prep, 12-5, on May 10 on the road.
As of May 18, the Cougars were 9-3 overall. Heath, along with Waldman and Sedransk, are senior co-captains, along with Dan D’Angelo. “It really is hard to describe the feeling of winning the Prep B title,” D’Angelo said. “After losing last season, it feels amazing. Everyone is so devoted to the team, and everyone cares so much about each other that it really is a special environment.”
For Waldman, the Prep B championship was just one of the items on the to-do list. “We have worked so hard this year and [it] was definitely a goal that we had for the season and to be able to check it off the list feels awesome,” he said.
Heading into the second half, Princeton cut the MKA lead to two, 5-3, but the Cougars took a halftime pep talk to heart.
“Our coaches told us to rely on things we’ve gone over time and time again in practice,” D’Angelo said. “Our coaches emphasized the importance of sticking together, and playing our game, and we knew if we did that, we would come out with a win. You could feel that Princeton Day was gaining momentum towards the end of the half, but we popped a few early, and that really changed the tide of the game.”
Waldman admitted that Princeton really put a scare into the team, but he gave credit to coach Dave Giarrusso, who will take over the program for Edwards next season, for picking them up.
“I think a lot of us started to have a little bit of doubt in each other, but I remember coach Giarrusso came into our huddle and said: “Who stole you guys’ lunch money?” Waldman said. “It gave everyone a laugh and picked us all up. He made us realize we are still winning, and a couple of bounces their way means nothing. We still need to play our game and focus on us and give it all we have and the rest will work out.”
But MKA did not have time to relax; they faced Don Bosco, considered the top team in the state, the next day, on May 13.
And while the Cougars lost, 13-7, in Ramsey, MKA was actually ahead 2-1 after the first period before trailing 7-4 at halftime. “We played with a lot of adrenaline,” said Edwards, whose only other loss so far was a 14-13 defeat at West Morris on April 23. “Don Bosco is just a strong and deep team.”
Edwards believes that the Don Bosco contest, along with hosting another state powerhouse, Delbarton, on June 1 will only help his team in the upcoming state tournament, another item on the checklist.
There is also the Essex County Tournament, where MKA is the sixth seed. The Cougars defeated Cedar Grove, 14-8, on May 15 in the first round and traveled to third-seeded Caldwell Monday. Unfortunately, the Cougars fell 10-6 to the three-seed Chiefs, which faced Montclair High School in the semifinals on Wednesday, May 19.