Draws, possession do in Montclair High School boys lacrosse in state tournament
The Montclair boys lacrosse team struggled at face-offs for most of the 2022 season.
On Saturday, May 21, the fifth-seeded Mounties almost were able to advance in the North Group 4 state sectional tournament at fourth-seeded Bridgewater-Raritan despite that bugaboo’s continuing for Montclair for three-fourths of the match.
Montclair started out fast with a 4-0 lead, but the Panthers scored seven unanswered goals, and the Mounties faced a 7-4 deficit in the fourth period.
While they came back to tie the game at seven with a little less than seven minutes remaining, Bridgewater-Raritan was just too strong at the face-offs and notched four out of the final five goals.
Montclair's drive in the state tournament would end with an 11-8 loss.
"We've learned the consequences of not winning the draws," Montclair head coach Mike Diehl said. "Hats off to the Bridgewater face-off players, especially after the first quarter."
Junior attacker Luca Ward led the Mounties’ offense with four goals. "Luca played out of his mind," Diehl said.
Despite the loss, Diehl saw a lot in his team, from the first game on March 31, a 13-0 shutout loss at Seton Hall Prep, to almost reaching the state sectional semifinals.
"I definitely thought that we came a long way from the start of the year," the coach said. "They left it all on the field, and I am proud of how they played. These kids have a lot of heart.”
For the season Montclair finished with an 8-11 record with only three seniors on the team, goalie Charlie Schmitt, attacker Solomon Brennan and defenseman Konrad Miklaszewski.
With the Mounties winning the draws, they were able to start out with that 4-0 lead with a minute remaining in the first quarter.
But then Bridgewater-Raritan woke up, and the Mounties’ lead dissipated as their offense went into a stall and the Panthers controlled the game of possession.
Montclair saw its four-goal lead evaporate just before the half and was down 5-4 going into halftime as Bridgewater-Raritan started winning the face-offs.
The Mounties rallied to tie the game at seven with a little less than seven minutes remaining in the match with the help of Ward, who fired a turnaround shot by Panther goalie Will Kasica.
But Bridgewater-Raritan continued to dominate the face-offs. In addition, the Mounties found themselves down a man, and Bridgewater-Raritan made them pay as the Panthers’ Colin Kurdyla fired a shot by Schmitt for an 8-7 lead with a little more than five minutes remaining.
Between losing face-offs and a couple of turnovers, the Montclair could not get its offense going the rest of the way.
Brennan had a good chance for Montclair with three minutes left to tie the game at eight. He was in front of Bridgewater-Raritan's Kasica and could not get full control for a shot.
On the Panthers' next possession, Brady Kurdyla fired a shot by Schmitt that put them ahead, 9-7. Montclair would never get any closer in the match.
To start the game, Ward and Brennan were one-two punches, with two goals each. Brennan scored his second goal to give the Mounties their 4-0 lead with almost two minutes left in the first period.
In the second quarter, one goal by one goal the Mountie lead shrank, with Bridgewater-Raritan's Tom Tremarco scoring with a little less than two minutes in the half to tie the game at four.
And then the Panthers’ Kyle Holmes, who was a thorn in the Montclair defense for most of the game, scored, and the Mounties found themselves down 5-4 with a minute left in the half.