by Andrew Garda

MORRISTOWN — All good things must eventually come to an end, and that’s what happened to an excellent Montclair Mounties field hockey team last Thursday in the 2018 NJSIAA North I, Group IV championship game. The Mounties fought hard and came back from a deficit twice, but Morristown High School was able to get the golden goal in overtime, winning 3-2.

“Every season comes to an end, and we’ve ended our season playing the best field hockey we’ve played all year,” head coach Mary Pat Mercuro said.

“I’m so proud of them.”

For the second game in a row, the Mounties found themselves trailing as Morristown senior Olivia Graham found the net in the first half. Mercuro said they knew Graham, who led her team with 20 goals during the season, would be difficult to contain, but she felt the Mounties did a solid job shutting her down after that goal.

"We did a great job on her,” Mercuro said. “Lulu Rubin did well marking her and then in overtime I don’t even think she was a factor.”

Morristown may center its offense around Graham, but they were still a dangerous team even though she was contained. After sophomore Elizabeth Haefeli scored off a pass from senior captain Sosi Korian, Morristown scored again in the second half, and MHS was once again trailing.

As has been the case all season long though, the Mounties were tenacious, playing hard, fast and aggressive. Morristown’s field is bigger than Montclair’s home field at Watchung, but the extra open room seemed to help the Mounties, as they had more green space to move the ball around in. Eventually, that paid off when Korian slipped the ball past Colonials goalie Emily Prachthauser to tie the game again.

“The way they came back and fought back,” Mercuro said. “You want a team that fights to the end, and you’ve got it right here.”

Meanwhile,  Mounties goaltender Amanda Murnick stood tall in net. Montclair’s backline played well, but Morristown still managed to break free on occasion and Murnick was there to stop them.

She would finish with 10 saves on the day and continued the same solid play which has been the hallmark of her 2018 season.

The Mounties offense continued to press Morristown, creating multiple chances to score, but just couldn’t put the ball away. The two teams moved up and down the field, unable to get a clear shot.

Regulation ended with not one, but two untimed corners for Montclair, with the last one disrupted by a Morristown defender, who fired the ball out of bounds, sending the game into overtime.

In field hockey, overtime consists of two 10-minute periods with just five players and a goalie on the field.

The wide open Morristown field again seemed to favor the quick and aggressive Mounties, who kept Prachthauser busy with several scoring chances. Momentum seemed to be heading Montclair’s way, and it felt as if it would only be a matter of time before Montclair scored.

Unfortunately, it only takes one executed chance to end a game. Morristown freshman Brittany Hoftijzer broke away from the defense, and after receiving a pass from the also wide open Morgan Mastracchio, was able to beat Murnick to win the game.

Despite the disappointing finish, Mercuro felt her team did very well.

“They created opportunities to put themselves in a winning position, and it just didn’t work out for us,” Mercuro said. “We haven’t been back [to the state finals] in two years, and now we’re back. Last time we were here, we lost 4-0, so to take this team to overtime is great.”

Mercuro hates that it ended like this for her seniors, who she repeatedly praises as great kids she knows will go far, but feels the program is as good as it’s ever been. Maybe even better.

“We had 35 freshmen try out, and we took a bunch of freshmen on JV,” she said. “The freshman team did fantastic, and our JV had a great season, so I think Montclair field hockey is going to keep coming back.”

The foundation, Mercuro said, is there for the Mounties to be a tough team to beat for a long time to come. If she continues to get the effort she got throughout the year from her team, Mercuro has a lot to be excited about and her seniors showed the underclassmen what hard work can achieve.

“We lost a really tough game,  but there’s nothing you can be upset about other than it’s over,” she said. “They played so well, and again, I’m so proud of them.”