BY ANDREW GARDA
It’s been a bit of a rough start for the Montclair Kimberley Academy Cougars field hockey team (3-3, 2-1 Essex/Union White). After starting the season with big wins over Newark Academy (9-1 on Sept. 9) and Caldwell (8-0 on Sept. 11), MKA had four games in the space of six days, dropping three of them.
A 3-0 win over Union on Saturday, Sept. 18, helped end the week on a good note, but a 4-0 loss to crosstown rival Montclair High School, a tight 1-0 loss to Summit and a 3-1 loss to Kent Place made for a rough stretch.
“We had a game on Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday,” head coach Injoo Han said. “So they’re just tired, and I think we just need to practice. And there was a Jewish holiday in the middle there, so we lost a day of practice. We just need to get our bearings back.”
Saturday against Union seemed like the day when the Cougars might have done just that.
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The team jumped out to an early lead as junior Caroline Murphy scored off an assist by senior Angie Flocco in the first quarter. Flocco added one herself a little later after receiving a pass from Mimi Temkin.
Things stayed quiet in the second and third quarter, though MKA pressed the attack and was often in Union’s end throughout the game.
They finally broke the ice when senior Kate Weinstein scored in the fourth quarter to put the game away at 3-0.
Murphy’s score was her third of the season to go with a pair of assists, while Flocco’s goal was her first. Weinstein’s goal was her fourth, and she has had one assist.
Han said the team has seen contributions from a lot of different players this season, even when they don’t all show up on the score sheet.
“We’re a pretty balanced team, which is nice. We don’t have one big superstar that everyone sort of looks to,” she explained. “Which I think is nice because everyone has to step up, you know? We have 11 strong players on the field, and they’re pretty balanced as a whole.”
While having one tremendous player is undoubtedly helpful, it can also contribute to other players not pushing themselves because they know they always have that star to turn to.
For the last few seasons MKA had Lindsay Yu, who is now playing at Columbia University. With Yu gone, everyone on the team is forced to step up. Once the team gets its bearings back, that will be something that will make them unpredictable, as teams can’t just focus on one player.
“This year I think they feel like they’re all capable,” Han said. “They’re all strong, they’re all pretty experienced.”
There are a few freshmen on the roster — six out of 25 — but also seven seniors, the most the team has had in a very long time.
“Everyone has a responsibility. Everyone has a job, they all know what they need to do, and not one person is more important than the other,” Han said.
She was especially happy with the play of the team’s midfielders.
“Mimi Temkin, who’s a sophomore, and Maddie Horn, who’s a sophomore, they play like right and left mids for us,” Han said. “Then Natalia Espinosa-Dice, who is a captain, and Natalie Yu, who is a junior, complete the midfield line, and they’re looking pretty strong.”
The coach said that there is a lot of strength all across the field, though.
“Mimi and Maggie are really strong in the midfield. Phoebe [Williams] is really strong as a goalie. She’s committed to play at Johns Hopkins next year,” Han said. “Kate Weinstein, who is our left forward, really came in ready to go. She often generates a lot of offensive momentum for us on the forward line. She has good speed on the left side.”
Overall, Han said the complexion of the team is a good mix of veterans and younger players.
After a couple of days to focus on practice, MKA headed off to West Essex to take on the undefeated Knights on Tuesday, Sept. 21, with results coming after press time. Then it will be on to Arthur L. Johnson High School (2-2-1, 2-0-1 Essex/Union White) on Saturday, Sept. 25.