by Andrew Garda

It’s been an exciting season for the Montclair Kimberley Academy girls lacrosse team, capped off with a win over crosstown rival Montclair High School as well as an appearance in the Prep Tournament finals against Princeton Day.

They lost the game to Princeton Day, but head coach Chelsea Intrabartola was proud of the way her team played, fighting to the end and never giving up.

“From start to finish, we were in it,” she said. “There was never a point where it seemed out of reach. Our top players all showed up and performed.”

That’s been the theme of the season, Intrabartola said. When the team lost four of its first five games, it didn’t fold, winning four of the next five games. When they were down 5-4 to a tough Mounties team, they didn’t collapse, and outscored MHS 6-4 in the second half to produce a 10-9 win.

The team came out and played hard right from the beginning. Intrabartola said that given how many of the girls knew and had played with and against each other, the MKA-MHS rivalry is always a game they get up for. On top of it, scheduling made the day Senior Day as well, which just added some energy to the Cougars.

Sophomore midfielder Lily Pryor in particular was on fire, Intrabartola said, and scored five goals. Fellow sophomores Claire Linaugh and Kirsten Zeug added two each, with freshman Bella Liu adding one goal as well.

They certainly never gave up, she said, even against a fierce Panthers team.

The Cougars were able to take the momentum they had from a big upset over the Mounties and come into the game against Princeton Day with a lot of confidence.

Intrabartola says the team has grown by leaps and bounds this year and the tenacity they’ve shown in 2017 is part of it.

“They’ve made huge strides in my second year here,” Intrabartola said. “It’s night and day.”

She was especially proud of her seniors, many of whom emerged as critical leaders for the younger players. Cameron Brady, Dorothy Cucci, Carly Hatfield and especially captains Kit Smith and Annie Wallace were pivotal in helping keep the younger players focused when things were tough, and teaching those same players the skills they will need to emerge as leaders themselves next year.

And the team is already looking at next year, excited from their success at the end of this season.

They may be a young team, Intrabartola said, but they have a lot of experience now.

Several juniors will become critical to the team as leaders when they become seniors. And, Intrabartola said, though Smith and Wallace set the bar high, she expects her juniors to rise to the challenge.

While they didn’t get the Prep title, the Cougars know this was a successful 2017 lacrosse season. Now, as they did after the win over the Mounties, the Cougars need to carry the momentum from that season into 2018.