It's been a tough introduction to the 2022 season for the Montclair High School girls lacrosse team.

The Mounties were 0-2 as of last week after a pair of independent contests.

In the season opener, Montclair could not get over the hump against Mendham and dropped a 16-14 decision at home on Thursday, March 31. It was a big game for Mounties senior co-captain Leigh Naturale, who had five goals. Naturale had 25 goals in 2021.

On Saturday, April 2, the Mounties were no match for Morristown, which could very well be one of the top teams in Group 4. Montclair lost 18-6 on the road. Just two days before that, Morristown took care of a quality Northern Highlands team, 18-1.

But there is plenty of time for the Mounties to rebound for contests in the Super Essex Conference American Division and the New Jersey Interscholastic Girls Lacrosse League Stars and Stripes North Division.

Against Morristown, Montclair could not get going from the start and faced a 10-2 deficit by the end of the first half. Junior Meghan Crane had two goals in the game for the Mounties, while junior Megan Previdi registered a goal and two assists.

Montclair head coach Kimberly Kolodny said the contest against Mendham was a better indication of what she believes her team will be like for the rest of the year.

“Our goals for the season are to compete with the top teams in our conference and play as a team,” Kolodny said.

Last season, the Mounties were considered the heartbreak kids of lacrosse. Montclair finished with a 7-11 record, but nine of the 11 defeats were by four or fewer goals. Five of those close losses were by one goal.

“Coming off last season with a lot of close games, we know what it feels like to fall short,” the coach said. “We want our girls to play a full 50 minutes of lacrosse every time they step on the field. Our word for this year is together, so we also want our team to play for each other and make every second count.”

Against Mendham, the Mounties kept coming back. “It was a great game against a strong team,” Kolodny said. 

They were down 11-8 at halftime and came back to tie Mendham at 11. Two more times Montclair would fall behind, then come back to tie Mendham.

attachment-Montclair girls lacrosse 3 11-11 v Mendham 3-31-22 DSC_0286
The Montclair girls lacrosse team celebrates after junior Meghan Crane, third from right, scored against Mendham to tie the game at 11 in the second half. (EDWARD KENSIK/STAFF)

The last time came when Naturale scored with a little more than seven minutes left in the game.

But unfortunately for the Mounties, Mendham kept the pressure going, and this time Montclair could not respond. “They were able to secure the draw controls and take time off the clock,” the coach said. “They were extremely aggressive between the 30s and made it difficult to secure ground balls.”

Kolodny has nine starters returning this season, led up front by their attackers, senior co-captains Lauren Morganlander and Naturale along with junior Previdi. 

There are also starters back in the midfield, sophomore Lizzy Giordano, senior co-captain Sabrina Martin and junior Crane. 

The back is solid and led by returning junior goalie Talia Cohen-Vigder; back in front of Cohen-Vigder is sophomore Hannah Saraisky and senior co-captain Liza Jonasz.

The top player returning is Morganlander, who was the team’s top offensive player last season with 38 goals and 30 assists. She was named to the All-SEC American Division first team.

“She comes onto the field every day wanting to be better for herself, but more importantly, for the players to her left and right,” Kolodny said. “We are looking forward to seeing everything she accomplishes during her senior season.”

After Morganlander, the top players coming back are Martin and Previdi, who were named to the All-SEC American Division honorable mention list.

Martin moved into the midfield this season for the Mounties. “Athletes like Sabrina Martin are hard to find. Not only is she an amazing lacrosse player, but she is a natural born leader,” the coach said. 

Previdi is the goal scorers’ best friend. Last season she led Montclair with 36 assists, to go with 15 goals. “She sees the field well and has a high lacrosse IQ, which is critical to running a successful offense,” Kolodny said. “She can guide our attack from behind the cage with her knowledge and very high lacrosse skills.”