2020-21 Montclair Kimberley Academy sports accolades
By EDWARD KENSIK
for Montclair Local
Montclair Kimberley Academy’s sports teams had a successful 2020-21, with several titles and a lot of post-season awards.
The following are some of the MKA athletic high points from the 2020-21 sports seasons:
Girls Track and Field
The Montclair Kimberley Academy girls track and field team saved the best for last this school year by bringing home the program’s first Non-Public title.
The Cougars eked out the title by four points, 71-67 over Trinity Hall, by winning the final event. The MKA four of senior Sarah Hobbs and freshmen Maggie Horn, Remy Ronen and Morgan Lee defeated Trinity Hall in winning the 1,600m relay on June 12 at Neptune.
“It feels amazing to be a part of this championship,” said MKA track and field coach Tim White, the MKA cross country coach who took over for Kate Jackson this season. “It’s been a long season filled with twists and turns. I’m grateful that the team accepted me as their new coach so easily. I already had a nice rapport with the distance team as their coach of two years, but a new coach is sometimes hard to accept.”
MKA was also led by Horn and Hobbs in the 800m, where they finished first and second. Senior Kelsey Freeman came in second in the 100m hurdles and third in the 400m hurdles. Horn was second in the 400m hurdles. Hobbs added a third place in the triple jump.
For the season MKA collected 10 All-SEC Colonial First Team honors. Horn and junior Phoebe Williams brought home three First Team honors each, Horn in the 800m, intermediate hurdles and the relay and Williams shot put, discus and javelin. Junior Emma Burd (1600m), Freeman (relay), Ronan (relay) and Hobbs (relay) added an All American First Team honor to their resumes this season.
Ironically, the Cougars girls lacrosse team was facing off on the same day for the Non-Public B against Trinity Hall. Unfortunately, the fortunes went Trinity Hall’s way in that game, 13-6.
Despite the loss, the girls lacrosse squad’s arrow is pointing up after the team reached three finals, even though they also dropped the Prep B and Essex County Tournament finals.
Leading the way this season for MKA were senior Taylor Everson, junior Patricia Columbia-Walsh and freshman Orly Sedransk, who all garnered SEC American First Team nods.
Everson was also named the Female Essex County Scholar Athlete of the Year.
Along with Everson, Cougars coach Chelsea Intrabartola credited her two other senior co-captains, Abby Clothier and Katie Hipp, for the 16-6 season.
“They really helped to keep the team focused on our goals, and set great examples with their commitment and work ethic,” Intrabartola said. “They have really made this program one that can compete with the top teams in the state, so we attribute a lot of our success to them.”
Boys Track and Field
The boys squad did not have as much success as the girls’, but came in fifth in the team standings at the Non-Public B meet.
The Cougars have a young team that was spearheaded by junior Isiah Udofia, who had one of the best seasons in MKA boys history.
Udofia set school records in the 100m (10.92), 200m (22.26) and triple jump (44-feet-6.5 inches). The junior won the 100 and 200 at the Essex County Championships while also taking those two sprints and the triple jump at the Non-Public B group meet. Udofia also grabbed third in the high jump at the group meet. The junior sprinter grabbed All-SEC Colonial First Team honors in both the 100m and 200m.
Freshman Osias Williams took second in the 110 hurdles at the group meet. His time of 17.3 was second-fastest in school history.
The MKA baseball team had a roller-coaster season in 2021 with a 10-12 record.
One of the highlights was senior Sean Stites, who played the middle infield and pitched. The senior surpassed 100 career hits this season despite his junior year’s being swiped away from him.
A couple of team highlights were defeating Caldwell, 6-5, on the road on May 28 and Cedar Grove, 6-5, on May 15.
In an abbreviated season, the boys team was not able to win the close games.
Five of their nine losses were by 11 or fewer points, and the team finished with a 6-9 record.
Individually, it was Brennan Columbia-Walsh who led the team and was named to the All-SEC Freedom First Team. Isiah Udofia and Noah Wolk made the All-SEC Freedom Second Team and Honorable Mention respectively.
The boys squad moved down to the Liberty division and went undefeated in the team side.
The Cougars also dominated the SEC Liberty Championship meet. MKA had five runners on the Liberty First Team in Aidan Szilagyi, Nathaniel Zuckerberg, Freddy Bishop, Constantinos Krenteras and Nick Snyder. MKA will be moving back to the American division next season.
On the girls side, the numbers were down, as the team had only four runners. Junior captain Emma Burd finished in the top 10 in the county this past season. Head coach Tim Cook expects the numbers to go back to pre-COVID seasons.
The MKA football team reached four wins, the most in four years for the program.
There were seven Cougars who were named to the Metropolitan Independent Football League First Team: on offense, wide receiver Clay Morris, lineman Caleb Hofmann, lineman Dominick Greendale, running back Nic Lembo and quarterback Jake Pryor while on defense linebacker Michele Cestone made first team and Will Hoffman gained All-MIFL Honorable mention.
Morris also was named to the First Team All-Essex County Offense and the Second Team for All-Non Public offense and Essex Football Coaches Association offense.
The skaters might not have brought home hardware, but they made strides this past winter, winning a couple more games than in the 2019-20 season.
The squad won a game in the Kelly Cup tournament, 4-1, over Millburn on Feb. 26.
MKA finished with a 4-5 record in an abbreviated season after going winless the previous season.
Adam Zidlicky had a big year for the Cougars, being named to the All-Kelly First Team and chosen as the team's MVP. Sam Rotella and Matt McCann were named to the All-Kelly Honorable Mention list. Danny D’Angelo received the winter season Captain Award among all the winter sports.
It was a big year for the boys lacrosse team as they took home a pair of titles.
The Cougars won both the SEC Liberty Division and the NJILL Kimber Division championships.
MKA finished with a 13-5 record and also reached the Non-Public B title game before falling to Pingry.
The Cougars had five players on the All-SEC Liberty First Team, Jake Waldman, O.B. Sedransk, Rollins Heath, Danny D’Angelo and Jake Pryor.
Montclair Kimberley boys soccer continued to be competitive in Essex County’s top division, the Liberty.
They finished in the top half of the division, including securing a scoreless tie against powerhouse Seton Hall Prep.
Overall the Cougars finished with an 8-5-1 record.
The trio of Sean Cadigan, Will Horn and Zach Wheeler collected All-Essex and All-SEC American division First Team honors.
As part of the shortened season, MKA was in a revised state tournament section, in which they lost to Seton Hall Prep, 1-0.
For MKA head coach Rob Leather, the biggest feat was just playing a schedule. “We played every game like it was our last, as we truly didn’t know what was around the corner,” Leather said about COVID issues causing pauses among the schools. “I think the bond the team of 2020 has will be lifelong and special.”
The Cougars are part of the toughest division in the county in the American and must face the likes of Newark Academy, Millburn, Livingston and Montclair.
For this season MKA ended up facing Newark Academy, the best team in the state, three times, including the state tournament.
The Cougars came in fourth in the Prep Tournament team standings and had a couple of finalists, including Rohan Moniz in the third singles and the duo of Aidan Szilagyi and Chris Hernandez in the second doubles.
The team moved up to the SEC Colonial division and struggled with a mainly young team, as they only mustered one victory.
Senior Vanessa Amsinger led the way for the Cougars and was named All-SEC Colonial First Team.
The other top contributors for MKA were junior Patricia Columbia-Walsh and freshman Maria Caggiano, who garnered All-Colonial Second Team and Honorable Mention nods respectively.
The field hockey team might have finished below .500, but six of the eight defeats were by three or fewer goals.
In the 5-8 season, the Cougars lost close matches to quality clubs like Montclair, Scotch Plains, Millburn and Northern Highlands.
The MKA squad played top-ranked Highlands on even terms in the state playoffs for most of the game and dropped a 2-0 decision. And this came without top scorer, Linda Yu, who was injured earlier in the season.
Despite missing most of the season, Yu was named All-SEC American First Team. Another Yu, sophomore Natalie, along with junior Lara Pramanik, collected All-American Second Team nods.
The team had a season for the ages.
The Cougars finished with a 13-1-1 record, with the lone loss coming at the hands of rival Montclair.
In most seasons MKA would have been almost a sure thing for a state title. But in the revised state section for just this past fall, they had to face a powerhouse Immaculate Heart Academy in Non-Public A. The Cougars would lose on penalty kicks to IHA in the state section finals.
The trio of Bella Douglas, Chloe Skipper and Julia Conforti led the Cougars as they collected All-SEC Liberty First Team honors. MKA dominated division foes in taking the Liberty title.
The squad had one of its best games near the end of the season.
The Cougars only won six games, but put it all together in the 2-0 victory over Eastern Christian in the first round of the Non-Public North B state section. MKA junior pitcher Jackie Tsai had one of her best games of the season in firing a one-hitter and striking out 13.
After falling to Morristown Catholic in the state playoffs, the Cougars ended on a high note with a 7-2 victory at Belleville.
The top offensive players for MKA this past season were sophomore Alex Berra and senior Annie Turvey. In addition to Tsai’s returning, her battery mate, sophomore catcher Natalie Yu, will be back for 2022.
Cougars coach Jessica Sarfati said injuries, especially at the start of the year, affected the season’s results.
“They could have easily folded after the first few weeks with tough losses, but they pulled together and stayed strong,” Sarfati said.
The young MKA girls tennis team brought home a state title to Lloyd Road.
The only stumbling block last fall in the 8-1 season for coach Bill Wing and his Cougars was Millburn, a 3-2 loss in the American division.
But they rebounded nicely to win their final six matches, including dropping powerhouse Holy Angels, 3-2, to take the Northeast Region E Tournament state title.
The freshman duo of Milagros Carbajal Diaz and Katie Chung grabbed the second and third singles respectively against Holy Angels. And then another freshman duo, Amara Bhatia and Hannah Lewis, won first doubles in three sets.
Along with Diaz and Chung, sophomore Hanna Ganchi garnered All-SEC American First Team honors.
The girls team was one victory away from a state title.
The Cougars dropped a straight-set match at Morris Catholic in the Non-Public North B state finals in April. MKA won a pair of matches to get to that sectional final.
The NJSIAA changed the girls volleyball season from the fall to early spring.
MKA finished with an 11-3 mark that included bringing home the SEC Liberty division championship, as they went undefeated in the division.
The trio of sophomore Samiyah Abdur-Rahim, sophomore Hailey Fouche and senior P.J. Dowd collected All-Liberty First Team honors. Abdur-Rahim and Fouche made a strong duo offensively and Fouche was ranked third, with Abdur-Rahim ranked fourth in kills overall in the conference with 115 and 112 respectively. Fouche and senior Ava Augustine were leaders in the SEC in blocks and assists respectively.