By ED KENSIK For Montclair Local
The Montclair Kimberley Academy girls lacrosse team has twice knocked on the door of the championship of the Essex County Tournament.
They just can’t seem to get the door open to seize the win.
For the second tournament in a row, the Cougars reached the title game, but could not grab the ring.
In the last-played spring season, MKA lost 12-9 to Glen Ridge in the ECT finals, in 2019.
And then on Saturday, the third-seeded Cougars could not finish off a comeback and dropped a 10-5 decision to top-seeded West Essex in this year’s finals.
“I am really proud of this team for fighting their way into the ECT finals for the second time in program history,” said MKA head coach Chelsea Intrabartola. “Looking at the history of the tournament on the program, it really shows how much we have grown as a program to see our school’s name on there for the last two ECT finals. We have a lot of great lacrosse programs in our county, and MKA is certainly one of them.”
The Cougars scrapped all the way back early in the second half to tie the game at 5 with the help of senior Taylor Everson and junior Patricia Columbia-Walsh, but there was still a little more than 19 minutes left in the contest.
“Winning draws was definitely something that helped our team’s momentum going into the second half,” Intrabartola said. “We were able to push a few fast breaks and capitalize on free position shots to tie it up.”
But West Essex showed why it was the top seed with the help of their offensive stars, Gianna Puorro and Cait Lutz, and MKA could not respond the rest of the way.
MKA freshman goalkeeper Orly Sedransk played well, but the West Essex pressure was too much.
“West Essex is a really fast and athletic team,” Intrabartola said. “They were able to push their fast breaks. Our goalie Orly (Sedransk) made some incredible saves in the second half, but West Essex was able to come up with more 50/50 balls and rebounds as the game went on.”
Montclair Kimberley struck first, as Everson fired a shot by West Essex keeper Jordan Cohen for a 1-0 lead.
But West Essex took control for most of the rest of the first half, and the Cougars were down 4-2 by halftime.
“A lot of the focus of the halftime talk was on the unforced mistakes we were making throughout the first half — turning the ball over in transition, forcing passes and those types of things that are in our control,” Intrabartola said. “We wanted to come out of the half more poised and ready to make smarter plays.”
Despite the defeat, playing in the ECT title game as well as the Prep B championship, a 9-7 loss to Trinity Hall on May 12, has given confidence but also a “chip on the shoulder” for the Cougars heading into the state tournament, which starts the first week of June.
“We have played in two championship games this season, both against two top 20 teams in the state, and came out of both games knowing that we can beat them,” Intrabartola said. “The team is itching at another shot of a championship, and I think this chip on our shoulder will help fight our way there.”
To get to the ECT finals, MKA upset rival and second-seeded Montclair, 10-9, in the semifinals on May 20. Cougars junior Avery Song’s four goals led the way while Columbia-Walsh and Everson chipped in a pair of goals. Montclair received a pair of goals from Lauren Morganlander, Emily Crane and Leigh Naturale.
The Cougars have three games, all at home, to prepare for the states: Columbia, May 24, Kent Place, May 26, and Millburn, May 28. They started that swing well, with a dominating 14-2 victory over Columbia. Everson, Columbia-Walsh and Song all had hat tricks in the win.