By EDWARD KENSIK
For Montclair Local
Montclair’s boys lacrosse team was on the precipice of a long-awaited state sectional title bid on Saturday.
The third-seeded Mounties were up 6-3 in the first part of the second half and were controlling the play and possession at second-seeded Ridgewood in the NJSIAA North, Group 4 semi-final.
But those dreams and hopes of a possible state title vanished in the next 12 minutes.
By the time the start of the fourth quarter came, the Montclair lead had vanished and the Mounties found themselves down 7-6.
The Mounties could never regain their first-half dominance and were ultimately ousted 9-7 by the Maroons.
“They came out and won the third quarter and had the momentum on their side,” Montclair head coach Michael Diehl said after the game.
With the Mounties up 6-3, Ridgewood scored five unanswered goals — giving Ridgewood an 8-6 lead. Montclair’s Solomon Brennan scored from close range to slice the Maroons’ lead to 8-7 with five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
But the Mounties could not get closer as a couple of possessions came up empty down the stretch in the fourth quarter.
Despite the loss, Montclair finished the season with a 12-6 record along with making the Essex County Tournament finalm as well as the state sectional semi-final.
It was the best results in years for the program as the Mounties look to build on it for 2022.
“I think the kids, especially the seniors, should be proud of what they have accomplished,” Diehl said after the state loss. “This group of kids has accomplished a lot and has set a standard for the future.”
It was still a bitter pill to swallow for Diehl and the rest of the Mounties, who were a half away from reaching a state final.
And it was the first time that the program had made it this far in the state tournament in a decade. The last time it happened was in 2011. In that year, the Mounties lost 12-5 to Hunterdon Central in the semis.
In the first half, it was the William Labartino show that at one point scored three goals on three shots in the first quarter.
The senior attacker struck fast and quickly in the first quarter for the Mounties.
After Ridgewood took a 1-0 lead, Labartino fired three shots and scored on each shot to give Montclair a 3-1 lead. “He’s a great leader of our attack and can shoot very well,” Diehl said.
Along with Labartino, Montclair senior Jared Topf along with Brennan scored to give the Mounties a 5-2 lead with six minutes remaining in the first half.
After Ridgewood scored to cut the lead to two, Topf notched the second of his two goals in the first four minutes of the second half for a three-goal lead, 6-3.
Coming into the game, Topf was on fire, with a dozen goals and two assists to go along with his expertise at the faceoff circle.
Like Topf, the Mounties were coming into the contest against Ridgewood on a hot streak with five wins in their last five games. In the five games, Montclair had outscored its opponents 60-18 in averaging a dozen goals per game.
Before the game against Ridgewood, Montclair had outscored its opponents 27-3 in the first two games of the state tournament including a 9-1 victory over Ridge on June 3 in the quarterfinals.