Posing with their Prep B trophy, the Montclair Kimberley Academy Cougars field hockey team has won this season with contributions from everyone on the team.
COURTESY OF MKA ATHLETICS

BY ANDREW GARDA
garda@montclairlocal.news

The Montclair Kimberley Academy field hockey team won a tight game against the Stuart Country Day School to take home the Prep B State Championship on Oct. 27, with the difference coming on a goal by Cameron Lienhardt off an Angie Flocco assist.

In years past, MKA (13-6-1, 3-1-1 Essex/Union-White) would lean on a single player to come up with the big goal, but that’s not the case this season. Lienhardt isn’t even in the top three goal scorers on the team — she has just five goals on the season — but it’s quality, not quantity, as far as head coach Injoo Han is concerned. 

“In previous years, we’ve had that one dominant player and then like the game, either we win or lose based on how that one player plays that day, you know?” Han said this past Monday as the team prepared for Wednesday’s NJSIAA Tournament, Non-Public, North quarterfinal game against Princeton Day.  “Whereas this year I feel like different kids step up at different times. Our scoring is really spread out, everyone’s capable.”

The top scorers for the Cougars are Kate Weinstein (17 goals), Mimi Temkin (12) and Caroline Murphy (12), but the team isn’t relying on them alone. That’s the big difference between 2021 and most previous years, where they relied on transcendent players like Lindsay Yu, who is now playing for Columbia University. 

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The problem was, there’s only one Lindsay Yu on the field, and if an opponent can bottle a player like her up, they can shut the offense down.

Having a player like Lienhardt, who can step up when an opponent is busy with one of the other players, makes MKA hard to stop.

“If they eliminate one player, we have 10 others that we go to,” Han said. “Which is really cool to see, I think, as a coach. I mean, I love that one superstar that’s going to go play Division I field hockey. That person’s really exciting to watch, but I’d actually much rather have 11 solid players out there you can distribute the ball evenly amongst, and they’re fine.”

One place where having one talented player to lean on is great would be goaltender, and MKA has just that in the person of Phoebe Williams. 

The 2021 Montclair Kimberley Academy field hockey team celebrates their 1-0 Prep B title win over Stuart Country Day School on Oct. 27.
COURTESY OF MKA ATHLETICS

With 103 saves on the year, Williams has come up big again and again. In a 1-0 game like the one MKA won against Stuart Day for the Prep B title, the margin of error is nonexistent, and a reliable goalie is the difference between a title and second place. 

While Williams only had to make four saves — a testament to a great game played by the Cougars defense — it wouldn’t have mattered if she only faced a single shot if she let it past her.

It was the second shutout in a row for the senior net-minder. 

“Phoebe Williams had a great game,” Han said.  “She made some crucial saves, and I think that she doesn’t get enough credit for keeping us in tight games. Her performance and her ability to keep us in there. We only won by one goal, so it was really important for that final. I thought we dominated the game, but it was competitive back and forth.”

MKA hasn’t played Princeton Day in field hockey since 2018 but beat them in all five of their last meetings. Han said regardless, MKA will continue to move the ball and pass it around, finding that one player who will step up and make a difference when her team needs it.