By ANDREW GARDA
Rivalry games don’t usually need anything extra to make them exciting. When Montclair High School and Montclair Kimberley Academy meet in any sport — as they did Thursday afternoon at Woodman Field for girls lacrosse — any fan is in for a treat.
However, this May 20 game had more than town pride and bragging rights at stake. It had a berth in the Essex County Tournament Championship on the line as well.
The result was an energetic, exciting game that came down to the literal last second as MKA freshman goaltender Orly Sedransk had to hold off a flurry of shots from the Mounties to protect a 10-9 win.
“She kept us in this game,” MKA head coach Chelsea Intrabartola said. “She came up with some big saves.”
While disappointed with the outcome, MHS head coach Kim Kolodny said the team has nothing to hang its head about.
“We’re just so proud of them, the way they came out and even when, I think we were down by four goals,” she said. “They chipped away together. It wasn’t just a one person effort. Every single person rode that bus today. So we were just really proud of that mentality and that unitedness as a team. And with that, we’ll move forward.”
Saturday’s game will mark just the second ECT finals appearance ever by MKA and the second in a row. Back in 2019, the Cougars lost to Glen Ridge 12-9 in what was the program’s first ever appearance in the ECT finals.
There was no season at all in 2020 due to COVID-19.
“This team, they’ve gone through a lot this year,” Intrabartola said. “We’ve been shut down [due to COVID protocols]. We’ve had injuries. We don’t have a deep bench. But they played for each other today and that’s all we can ask for. As coaches we never gave up, and [the team] kept fighting the whole time.”
MKA needed that fight Thursday, because no matter what the Cougars did, the Mounties wouldn’t go away.
The two teams traded goals in the first half, with the No. 3-seeded Cougars taking an early lead, and then No. 2-seeded Montclair High cutting the lead again and again throughout the rest of the game.
That included key back-to-back goals to end the half by MHS junior Leigh Naturale, which sent the Mounties into the half trailing by one, with a score of 6-5.
When the second half began, the game turned from a scoring display to a defensive battle as neither team could penetrate the opposition’s defense.
However, MKA began to break through the Mounties’ defensive wall and soon built a 9-5 lead.
Still, MHS refused to back down, and crawled back into the game. MKA added a goal to make it 10-6 and the Mounties got back to work, including scoring twice in the final three minutes.
Sedransk continued to show tremendous poise as she shook off any goal MHS scored and stepped back into the net, and she needed it for the final 30 seconds as Montclair pressed her hard.
“The composure piece that, you know, takes a long time for a lot of players to learn,” Intrabartola said. “And she had that as a freshman. That didn’t get muddled through to the end of the game. We’re lucky to have her.”
In the end, the Mounties couldn’t get that goal to send the game to overtime, and MKA secured a spot in the final. MKA will play top-seeded West Essex at the Knights’ home field on Saturday, May 22 with the scheduled start time of 1 p.m.
Along with Sedransk, MKA leaned on senior Taylor Everson (2 goals, 3 assists, 5 points), and juniors Patricia Columbia-Walsh (2 goals, 2 points) and Avery Song (4 goals, 2 assists, 6 points). Caroline Murphy and Aeryn Curren each contributed a goal as well.
For Montclair, senior Emily Crane and juniors Lauren Morganlander and Leigh Naturale each had a pair of goals. Megan Previdi, Meghan Crane and senior Katie Giordano each had one goal.
It was the sixth one-goal loss MHS had suffered this season.
While a disappointing loss for Montclair High, Kolodny said there is still a lot to play for, including the state tournament, which will be announced next week. And while they didn’t win, the Mounties still achieved one goal the coaches set out for them — to put themselves in a position to make a run in the state tournament.
“You know, I think our goal for today of course, was to compete and try to get that ‘W,’” Kolodny said. “But ultimately our goal for our girls was to come together as a team today and we couldn’t do it unless everyone had a united 100 percent all-in mentality.
For Intrabartola, making the finals helps ease the pain a little of a 9-7 loss to Trinity Hall in the Prep Tournament.
“We had a lot of big goals this year,” she said. “We lost in the Preps to Trinity Hall, which was tough. So we were coming off of that. We’re really ready to go [on Saturday]. We’re ready to keep fighting for those goals. We still have a lot [of season] left and the ECTs on Saturday will be fun. We’re excited for it.”
In addition to covering sports for Montclair Local, Andrew Garda works as a substitute teacher at Montclair Kimberley Academy Middle School.