Montclair girls lacrosse can now talk about their upcoming Essex County Tournament title game opponent.
The second-seeded Mounties will take on top-seeded West Essex on Saturday, May 6, in the ECT final at Livingston High School (2:30 p.m.). Behind a strong first half, Montclair (6-5) dispatched third-seeded Verona on Thursday, May 3, 14-7, at Woodman Field in Montclair in the ECT semifinals. West Essex (7-2) defeated fourth-seeded Glen Ridge, 11-9, in the other county semifinal.
For sophomore Aven Hodgson, who shared the team lead in goals with four along with another sophomore, Olivia Nicoll, in the victory over Verona, she can’t wait until Saturday. “We’re very excited,” Hodgson said. “We’re back and ready to win.”
Montclair had been making sure to just keep an eye on the opponent in front of them rather than the thoughts of avenging the ECT final loss in 2022.
The match on Saturday will be a sequel to last season’s ECT title game, in which the Mounties lost a heartbreaking 8-7 verdict to West Essex at West Essex High School.
Junior Hannah Saraisky, who added two goals in the victory over the Hillbillies, remembers the ECT final very well. “All of it,” said Saraisky, who felt especially bad last season for the now-graduated seniors. She said that it had been especially tough for the seniors and that she was “just excited to be back and grateful to have another opportunity.”
In the ECT final last season, West Essex held onto the ball for the final eight minutes of the match and Montclair could not do anything about it.
Saraisky added that they have been working extensively on the scenario of last season’s ECT with holding the ball, not only on defense against it but also offensively.
“We’ve worked on holding the ball at the end and have been working on that a lot for the last five to 10 minutes,” Saraisky said. “When on offense being patient and when on defense pressuring the other team.”
Against Verona, Saraisky was a big reason why the Mounties jumped out to a 12-2 lead by halftime, which basically won the match for Montclair. The junior dominated the Hillbillies in the faceoff circle and allowed Montclair to control the battle of possession.
“We scout the other team, and we know the players on our team and placing the ball to whatever is the best fit,” said Saraisky, who did a great job controlling the faceoff or connecting with a teammate. “I tried getting it in one direction.”
Hodgson scored all four of her goals in the first half and all of them came in a six-minute period. “We were pretty confident coming into the game,” Hodgson said about the first half. “We have great attackers, and we know when we need to shoot and that it will go in. Everybody felt pretty good and confident that we would get it in.”
Along with Nicoll and Hodgson who scored four goals, senior Meghan Crane chipped in three goals in the triumph over Verona.
After the first half against Verona, Montclair played to drain the clock with only two goals in the final 25 minutes. Verona did give the Mounties a little bit of a scare, scoring six consecutive goals to slice the Montclair lead to 13-7 with a little less than six minutes to go in the match.
After Verona cut the Mounties’ advantage to six goals, Montclair turned to Giordano in the faceoff circle, and she helped put away the Hillbillies. The junior secured the next two faceoffs and Nicoll fired her fourth goal of the contest with 5:40 left to basically put away the semifinal, 14-7.
In Saturday’s ECT final, Montclair will be looking to win its second county championship. The Mounties won the title in 2015 when they defeated West Essex, 14-13. This will be the 10th time that Montclair has been in the county championship.