Field Hockey: Mounties head to ECT finals with 1-0 OT win over Glen Ridge
by Andrew Garda
GLEN RIDGE—Montclair High School field hockey team advanced to the Essex County Tournament finals with a 1-0 overtime win over Glen Ridge.
The final goal came on a shot by Missy Wrede in the middle of the overtime period. At first, 2-seed Glen Ridge had been in possession of the ball in the Montclair end, but then the 3-seeded Mounties were able to clear it downfield.
A second pass put the ball past the Glen Ridge defender, and Wrede found herself with it and a clear angle of attack on the net. She evaded another defender and fired off a shot which went between the keeper’s legs and into the goal for a win.
“It was down by our goal by Anjali [Abram] and then Fiona [Campbell] had it and she passed it to Sammy [Van Siclen],” Wrede said as she described the play. “There was only one defender, and Sammy beat her and sent [the ball] stright up. Then it was just me and the goalie. I brought it down to the corner and then went in on a diagonal, did a little dodge and shot the goal.”
“When the ball’s on [Wrede’s] stick something’s going to happen,” coach Mary Pat Mercuro said after the game. “And she’s one of the most unselfish players you ever want to meet. So I’m thinking the whole time she’s thinking ‘pass, pass, pass’ and then she saw an opening and snuck it in. She’s just amazing.”
The Mounties have now been in five overtime games, and they’ve yet to lose one. Besides the win against Glen Ridge, they tied in the two teams’ previous meeting, beat Montclair Kimberley Academy and tied Randolph and Summit as well.
An overtime period is a good way to tell what you have in a team, and Mercuro has seen time and again that her team will rise to the challenge.
“I’m so happy for them, the seniors especially,” Mercuro said. “I wanted them to have the success other teams have had. This is a great team. They pass the ball better than any team I’ve had ... and there’s a lot of good field hockey in them. I’m excited for the next couple of weeks.”
The game against Glen Ridge was a closely played one, with both teams pressuring each other’s goaltenders for minutes at a time. MHS would have several shots that just didn’t quite find a home in the back of the net, and then GR would do the same.
Anjali Abram repeatedly came up big for the Mounties, helping the team deny GR on their corner attempts time and again. She was also very vocal in her encouragement and direction of her team, making sure they knew where they were supposed to go.
It was a good thing Abram was on her game, as the second half had some speed bumps for the Mounties, and after the Ridgers spent several unbroken minutes in the MHS end, Mercuro had to call a time out.
“I said this is it. If you’re going to step up, you have to step up now. You have to give everything you have.”
The Mounties couldn’t quite find the back of the cage in regulation though, despite mounting some good pressure in the last moments of the second half.
Then the Mounties found themselves in overtime, and without the services of Eve Naturale, who had taken a ball to the mouth at the end of the first half. Naturale gutted it out for the second half, but Mercuro kept her on the bench for overtime, though Naturale would likely have come in if the Mounties needed a push.
“It was a tough call because Eve is a gamer,” Mercuro said of keeping Naturale off the field in favor of Leah Plawker. “[Naturale] is the person you want in there, but in this game we wanted to play a little more offensive. And Leah has a great stick and has generated so much offense for us lately, that’s why we went with that decision. I was going to watch the flow, see how it went and then make my decisions there, on whether [Plawker] goes out and Eve goes in. It worked out.”
For Mercuro, this win signaled that her team could step up in the spotlight and deliver.
“We hadn’t won a big game yet. We had some ties, which were disappointing, but this was their game to win. We were a 3-seed and we beat the 2-seed. This was their game.”
Now the Mounties have a week to prepare for the county championship match against top-seeded West Essex, fresh off an impressive 7-0 win over MKA in the other semifinal. The final will be played Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at West Essex.
Mercuro feels that more than anything this week, the coaching staff needs to make sure the Mounties know what they are capable of.
“Right now we’re trying to get them to believe in themselves. I truly think they’re one of the best teams I’ve ever coached,” Mercuro said. “And they’re just nice kids and they don’t fight you. They are like ‘we wanna work harder.’”
Despite the gap in records between Montclair and West Essex, Mercuro doesn’t think her squad should be intimidated by the Knights.
“They definitely dominated in overtime,” Mercuro said. “Now we go get West Essex. Why not?”