by Andrew Garda

The 2-seed Montclair High School girls lacrosse team fell to 1-seed Glen Ridge, 18-11 in the Essex County Tournament finals Saturday afternoon. While the Mounties fought hard and never gave up, the Ridgers took advantage of early mistakes and were able to generate constant pressure on offense to get the win.

“I think it’s just the little mistakes which hurt us today,” coach Ann Jennings said after the loss. “Some inexperience hurt us. Turnovers that we shouldn’t have had slowing down our offense, messing up our plays. Defensively, just letting them drive in on us I think hurt us a lot.”

By the last few minutes of the game, it was clear the Mounties were tired. Several times toward the end of the game, Glen Ridge was able to slash across the front of the net, with an MHS defender trailing and unable to keep up.

While goalie Olivia Lynch made a lot of great saves throughout the day, she understandably struggled with those virtually wide-open shots.

Glen Ridge wore the Mounties down over the course of both halves as, especially early on, the officials allowed the Ridgers to play a very physical style of lacrosse.

That doesn’t lend itself to the style of game MHS plays — a fast, cutting offense with a defense which jams up the scoring lanes. Glen Ridge slowed the game down, disrupting the things that normally make Montclair dangerous offensively, while colliding with MHS attackers when the Mounties were trying to get a shot off.

The officials seemed to adjust their calls later in the game, but the early physicality certainly had the long-term impact of wearing the Mounties out.

Offensively, almost all the damage was done by Nora Giordano and Jill Jennings, who recently scored her 100th career goal. Each player had five goals and an assist, and while Glen Ridge occasionally threw two, three and even four defenders at the Mounties, both had a lot of success during the game.

Only Natalie Rechan added to the goal-scoring though, which was also a problem for Montclair. On the occasions when Jennings or Giordano couldn’t take a shot, they had a lot of trouble finding an open player to pass to. When they managed to find one, Glen Ridge did a great job of keeping those players from shooting.

When only two players can find the net for your team, it makes it easier for a defense to limit your overall offense.

The turning point for the game came in the late first half. Jennings tied the score 4-4 with her third goal of the game, and Lynch had made several tremendous saves to keep things even.

Then, starting at 11:41 left in the half, Glen Ridge fired off four straight goals. Jennings scored again with 32 seconds left, but the Ridgers generated a turnover and pulled the lead back to four with 8.5 seconds left in the half.

While 9-5 is far from an insurmountable lead, that last goal seemed to be a bit of a back-breaker. The second half opened with another turnover and a wide-open shot on Lynch to make things 10-5. While the two teams traded goals for a bit, Glen Ridge slowly began to pull away.

The Mounties kept fighting, with both Giordano and Jennings scoring later in the game, but eventually they just couldn’t keep up, and Glen Ridge won its second ECT title in a row.

Now the Mounties finish out their last few regular-season games and wait for their seeding for the NJSIAA Tournament.

The Mounties will find out their seed in the North Jersey, Group IV bracket this Friday, with opening-round play scheduled for Tuesday, May 16. Sectional quarterfinal games are set for Friday, May 19.