Montclair Geese's first state title. (HANK GREENBERG PHOTO)
Montclair Geese’s first state title. (HANK GREENBERG PHOTO)

Montclair High School joined the elite of Ultimate Frisbee in New Jersey last week as they took home their first state championship.

Montclair dethroned the Ultimate Frisbee powerhouse, second-seeded Columbia, last week with a 13-10 victory as their defense came through in the final minutes at Underhill Field in Maplewood on June 2.

With the Montclair Geese, who were the top seed, collecting the 2023 state title, they join Columbia and Westfield as the only schools who have captured a New Jersey title since the competition started at the beginning of the 21st century. Columbia has 17 New Jersey championships while Westfield has four.

Montclair senior captain Griffin van Rhyn was a big reason for the state title as he registered 11 of the 13 Montclair Geese assists. He acknowledged the history leading up to this match.

“Growing up, I watched them play,” van Rhyn said of Columbia. “When I was in eighth grade, I came to the state tournament to play with the Montclair team. At the time, there were maybe 15 players in total. Just watching Columbia play at that point, I thought they were like Frisbee gods or something. They were so good. To be here and to be at this level now, it’s incredible.”

Montclair sophomore Coaba Nichim-Luta pointed out that the Montclair Geese are only the third school in the state taking the Ultimate Frisbee championship.

“It’s surreal, but it’s great to be here, especially considering how new of a team we are,” Nichim-Luta said. “I was starting when the team first started – on the middle school team maybe five, six years ago. To come from there and see the team grow from eight people to what it is today is amazing.”

Montclair’s goal scoring came from many different sources. Senior Eli Fellus, Nichim-Luta and sophomore Sam McCrory each had three goals. Nichim-Luta scored the final three goals for Montclair.

Nichim-Luta gave insight on how he took advantage of Columbia’s defense.
“I’m going to go deep,” Nichim-Luta said. “I am notorious for that. I send myself deep and then they’ll double me to contest that. But they sort of chilled after I didn’t really go deep in the first half. I just abused that in the second half.”

On defense, McCrory had the top performance. He had five defensive stops, including multiple interceptions and multiple blocks. McCrory even forced two turnovers in a single point. Van Rhyn and Nichim-Luta each had three defensive stops of their own.

With 20 minutes left in the state championship game, the Montclair Geese had built up a sizable 11-9 lead over Columbia, but the Cougars would not fade quickly. Columbia scored the next goal, making it 11-10. After an untimely defensive lapse from Montclair, the Cougars were knocking on the door of the end zone with a chance to tie the game and complete their comeback.

The Cougars called a timeout to draw a play on offense. Montclair needed a miracle stop to keep the lead. Montclair Geese junior Krish Vasisht delivered for his team. Vasisht jumped in the pathway between Columbia’s thrower and receiver and knocked down the disk.

Montclair’s offense collected themselves, found their rhythm, and eventually won the point.

Van Rhyn commented on Vasisht’s crucial defensive stop. “We were putting our hearts out there. Krish had a huge bid in the endzone,” van Rhyn said. “That was a good throw, but Krish put himself on the line to stop that. We locked them up really well. They had some great plays, but at the end of the day, we were able to get the stop at the end by pushing ourselves as hard as we could.”

Van Rhyn’s performance was notable because he missed both the quarterfinal and semifinal games at the state championships because of an ankle injury.
He was unaware of how well he played after the game. “I want to guess seven assists…,” van Rhyn said. “I had 11? Seriously?”

Van Rhyn’s teammates had similar reactions. Nichim-Luta and McCrory were incredulous but acknowledged van Rhyn’s talent. “Eleven, that is ridiculous,” Nichim-Luta said. “And somehow, it’s unsurprising from Griffin. That’s crazy.”

“Eleven, that is nuts,” McCrory said of van Rhyn’s performance, then quickly corrected himself: “I mean, that checks out. He’s different. He’s going to get his.”

McCrory explained how the team changes when van Rhyn plays, but also added that the Montclair Geese have shown their depth this season.

“We pride ourselves on being a very versatile team,” McCrory said. “Everyone has throws, everyone can catch, and everyone can run. Griffin just brings that X factor that a lot of other teams don’t necessarily have. I think what really sets him apart is his vision. He can see the field in a different way. When I’m looking at the field, I just see a jumble of people. He sees like five different throws and their angles and trajectories.”

With the state title in their pocket, the entire team will get ready for the High School National Invite in Salt Lake City on June 16 and 17.