by Andrew Garda

The second time was just as much a charm as the first on Wednesday, May 23, as the Montclair Kimberley Academy boys lacrosse team downed Rutgers Prep for the second time in less than a week, advancing to the semifinals of the 2018 NJSIAA Non Public, Group B Tournament.

The No. 4 seeded Cougars will now face off on the road against top seeded Pingry Saturday morning at 10am for a berth in the finals.

Despite the fact that MKA and Rutgers Prep had just met, the Argonauts seemed to been unable to correct the issues which plagued them in the first meeting.

Or perhaps, it was just the fact that the Cougars executed their game-plan nearly flawlessly for a second game.

As with their last meeting — which finished one goal shy of this week’s 10-2 drubbing — the Cougars did an excellent job at both ends of the field, with solid ball movement, communication and stout defense the byword of the day.

In fact, the players felt like they had even managed to improve a bit from the last game.
“Defensively, I think we matched up with individual players more and we played a strong man to man rather than a zone,” junior Max South said after the game. “I think we tried it out last time we played them. We made a few adjustments on picks and when they [set] picks for [Danny Vargas] we immediately slid and that was beneficial to us.”

Senior Nico Espinosa Dice agreed.

“We didn’t change too much, we just had to keep improving. Obviously, it was a new game so we didn’t know what they were going to throw at us but if we have the fundamentals down, in-game adjustments are easy to make.”

That’s been the key for the season, as the Cougars have worked hard to make sure their basic game skills are on point.

And according to both players. that’s critical for their Saturday tilt against Pingry.
“Good teams will capitalize on mistakes you make,” Espinosa Dice said. “So, on the flip-side, we have to capitalize on their mistakes. Solid fundamentals are a big part of that.”

South said that in addition to making sure they do the little things right, MKA has to approach the game with the right attitude and not just coast on their success.

“After beating Rutgers Prep twice, we have momentum and getting that mindset that we have to go out there with full energy could be difficult,” he said. “The mental part is going to be the hardest part, but I think physically, we can definitely put up a good fight.”

And with a good fight, if things break right for them, they could find their way into the finals.