by Andrew Garda

The Montclair High School girls lacrosse team advanced in the Essex County tournament with a 20-4 win over Livingston during a drizzly Monday quarterfinal at Woodman Field. The No 2-seeded Mounties will host third-seeded West Essex in the semifinals Saturday morning, after the Knights edged MKA, 9-8, in their tournament game Tuesday.

The Mounties were the first to strike, as freshman Nannette Walls-Tarver scored with an assist by junior Nora Giordano. Giordano, who recently scored her 100th career goal, would go on to have a huge game, totaling five assists and four goals — one of several players to find the net multiple times as the game tilted heavily in Montclair’s favor.

Early in the game, however, the Lancers were fighting hard and the two teams traded goals, though MHS continued to build a lead.

“[Livingston] had some girls who could drive in, and obviously we saw that in the first half,” coach Ann Jennings said after the game. “Being able to shut them out in the second half and keep possession was great.”

Livingston had managed to close to 8-4 with just under 11 minutes to go in the first half when sophomore Maddie Crane scored her first goal as a Mountie to make the score 9-4.

Once Crane scored, the floodgates opened and it was all Montclair, as the attack slashed Livingston’s defenders repeatedly and did a fantastic job moving the ball around.

Crane would add a second goal later in the game as well and was just one of a diverse group of players who got in on the action for the Mounties. Freshman Yael Gellerman (1 goal), senior Maria Daniskas (3 goals), junior Missy Wrede (1 goal) and freshman Abby Romano (1 goal) all contributed points.

Of course the usual suspects weren’t left out, as Giordano was joined by freshman Nannette Walls-Tarver (4 goals, 1 assist), senior Jill Jennings (4 goals, 2 assists) and Natalie Rechan (1 goal, 2 assists).

One of the more impressive goals in a game that featured quite a few was a score by Walls-Tarver to make the score 10-4. On the play, Jennings and Walls-Tarver shot into the attack zone, with Jennings carrying the ball.

After a couple of quick moves, Jennings saw Walls-Tarver open in the slot and fed her the ball. The freshman made a quick, hard shot past the goalie and into the net.

While the Mounties showed plenty of sharp and precise passes just like that which resulted in scores, they also were able to slow the pace down and set up plays.

Most of the second half was doing just that, as Montclair moved the ball around to kill time and avoid piling even more goals on the Lancers. While the occasional shot was still taken, for the most part it was clear that Jennings wanted to ease back the throttle on what was a red-hot offense in a lopsided game.

The Mounties now look forward to the next round of the Essex County Tournament, but before that they face Northern Highlands on Thursday.

“We just have to take it one game at a time,” Jennings said. “First we have to prepare for Northern Highlands. Obviously we’ll prepare for West Essex.”

Luckily in at least one possible outcome, the Mounties have recent experience with their next tournament opponent.

“We’ve played West Essex before and it was a close game but it’s nice we have the advantage of being home which will help us.”

The key to the Northern Highlands game, which as a league game is an important one, is to get out of the match with no injuries. During the Livingston game, captain Sam Wittman was hit rather hard by the ball and there was concern she might have been injured. Wittman was fine in the end, but Jennings felt the game was a bit rough and just wanted to avoid losing players to injury because the officials weren’t calling a tight game.

Jennings doesn’t want that to happen right before the next round of the tournament.

“It’s good to have Northern Highlands to prepare us, but that close to the semifinals it’s hard. It’s going to take a toll on [the players’] bodies and that’s why we have to make sure we’re recovering.”

The Mounties face Northern Highlands on the road Thursday at 5 p.m., before hosting West Essex Saturday at 10 a.m. for a trip to the May 6 county final.