The Montclair High School girls lacrosse team had plenty of chips on its shoulders heading into this year’s Essex County Tournament. 

In last year’s tournament the Mounties lost to neighborhood rival Montclair Kimberley, 10-9, in the semifinals.

The returning Montclair players were looking to make things right and get to the ECT finals.

The second-seeded Mounties accomplished that on Wednesday, May 4, when they defeated third-seeded Caldwell, 12-10, at home.

“It means a lot,” senior Leigh Naturale said. “We lost a year [to COVID-19], and I wanted to get to the finals.”

It is the first appearance for Montclair (7-5) in the ECT finals in seven years. The Mounties defeated West Essex in the 2015 title game.

And the opponent on Tuesday, May 10 will be the same as then, top-seeded West Essex. The game will be held at West Essex, at 6 p.m.

Sophomore Lizzie Giordano is aiming to win a county title for her sister, Kate, who graduated last year. “My older sister never made the county final,” she said. “I want to win it for her and all my sisters on the team.”

One of the attributes of the 2022 Montclair team is that most of the squad has been playing together on the fields in the township for several years. “We’ve all been playing since we were in grade school,” Giordano said.

In terms of Caldwell, Montclair did not have to go into extra time this go-round. On April 16, the Mounties went two overtimes before beating the Chiefs, 15-14. “A lot better,” Giordano said about not having to go into extra time. “I think we’re really used to the pressure.”

On Wednesday, Naturale and Giordano led the Mounties in scoring with three goals each.

As in the first time against Caldwell, the two teams went back and forth, with several lead changes along the way.

But Montclair finally broke through the one-goal-advantage trend with eight minutes remaining in the game when junior Megan Previdi, who had three assists, came from behind goal on the left and fed junior Meghan Crane, who was on the right.  Crane immediately fired a shot past Caldwell goalie Sarah Catizone that handed the Mounties an 11-9 lead.

Montclair junior Meghan Crane, left, shoots and scores, giving the Mounties an 11-9 lead against Caldwell in the Essex County Tournament semifinals. MHS defeated Caldwell, 12-10, and now takes on top-seeded West Essex in the finals on Saturday in Verona. (EDWARD KENSIK/STAFF)
Montclair junior Meghan Crane, left, shoots and scores, giving the Mounties an 11-9 lead against Caldwell in the Essex County Tournament semifinals. MHS defeated Caldwell, 12-10, and now takes on top-seeded West Essex in the finals on Saturday in Verona. (EDWARD KENSIK/STAFF)
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With the help of Montclair junior goalie Talia Cohen-Vigder and the defense, that goal gave the Mounties’ offense opportunities to extend the lead.

Senior Lauren Morganlander gave Montclair even more breathing room, as she scored with six minutes left for a 12-9 lead that became pretty impenetrable.

While Caldwell’s Lily Caravela scored with a little less than three minutes remaining to cut the Montclair lead to 12-10, the Mounties drained the clock, and the Chiefs could not do anything about it.

“In the last two minutes we really have been able to trust each other,” Giordano said about holding onto the ball.

With the win over Caldwell, the Mounties are on a three-game winning streak heading into the ECT title match.

Montclair started the streak with a 13-7 victory over Immaculate Heart Academy, which reached the semifinals of the Bergen County Tournament on April 28. Before defeating Caldwell, the Mounties took care of seventh-seeded Livingston, 19-4, in the ECT first round. 

Montclair girls lacrosse schedule

(Games at 4 p.m. unless noted)

May 7 West Essex, at Verona, Essex County Tournament finals, 4:30 p.m.

May 10 Mountain Lakes

May 12 at Chatham

May 16 at Millburn, 4:15 p.m.

May 17 at MKA