Montclair High School’s field hockey team has been one of the best squads not only in Essex County but also in the state over the years.

For this season, head coach Mary Pat Mercuro has a young, inexperienced squad, with 13 members new to the varsity. And this year the state sliced a week of preseason off the calendar to equalize the seasons in high school sports.

"It's always good to have a little more time with your team, but everyone started at the same time," said Mercuro, whose team was 16-5 last season. "We are learning and getting better every day."

While many coaches would play down the new players, Mercuro said she thinks the lack of varsity time is a benefit.

"Our inexperience is our strength," she said. "These young ladies aren't afraid of anything. They are so willing to learn."

Montclair’s field hockey team is always in the running for the county title, along with powerhouse West Essex. In North 1 Group 4, the Mounties should again be in the running for a title, as they compete with the likes of Randolph, Ridge and Phillipsburg. 

Montclair head coach Mary Pat Mercuro talks to her team during halftime of the Ridgewood scrimmage. (EDWARD KENSIK/STAFF)
Montclair head coach Mary Pat Mercuro talks to her team during halftime of the Ridgewood scrimmage. (EDWARD KENSIK/STAFF)
loading...

Montclair has won nine state sectional titles since 1980.

Despite their youth, the Mounties do have some starters back, beginning with their keeper, senior Isabel Ginns, who had 164 saves last year.

"She is possibly the best goalie in the county," the coach said. "Isabel is vocal and intense. She is helping the young defense in front of her."

Two of the biggest holes to fill were left by the graduation of Natalie Snyder and Phoebe Campbell, who tallied 45 goals between them.

The prime candidate to pick up the slack is senior Meghan Crane, who had seven goals and four assists last year. 

"Good things happen when Meg is in the game," Mercuro said. "Last season she was a big goal-scorer. She's always ready to play, and plays all-out."

Montclair freshman Ceci Cowart stretches for the shot for the Mounties field hockey team in a scrimmage recently against Ridgewood. Montclair field hockey opens its 2022 season on Thursday, Sept. 8 in hosting Westfield, 4 p.m. (EDWARD KENSIK/STAFF)
Montclair freshman Ceci Cowart stretches for the shot for the Mounties field hockey team in a scrimmage recently against Ridgewood. Montclair field hockey opens its 2022 season on Thursday, Sept. 8 in hosting Westfield, 4 p.m. (EDWARD KENSIK/STAFF)
loading...

The top player coming back is senior Meg Previdi, who will move up from the back to central midfield with the goal of picking up the scoring slack. "Having the ball on her stick will generate a lot of offense for us," the coach said. "She is smart and focused."

Another player who is back is senior Marin Furer, a versatile player. "She returns with speed and strength," Mercuro said. "Her overall knowledge of the game will help all around her. Marin leads by example."

One of the top younger players will be sophomore Eliza Larson at forward. "She has great stick work and can really move the ball," the coach said. "She was brought up for the state tournament last season as a freshman. We're looking forward to a great season for her."

The top freshman might be Ceci Cowart, who is expected to excel by the second half of the season. "She has an unbelievable work ethic," Mercuro said. "She has great skills and fundamentals. Once she is used to the varsity game, she will be a standout on the field."

Early on in the season, Montclair’s challenges will come on Sept. 13 and 15, when the Mounties host state powerhouses Oak Knoll and West Essex, respectively.

Montclair Field Hockey Schedule
(Dates and times subject to change, 4 p.m. start except where noted)

Sept. 8 Westfield
Sept. 10 Caldwell, 10 a.m.
Sept. 13 Oak Knoll
Sept. 15 West Essex
Sept. 17 Johnson, 10 a.m.
Sept. 19 Scotch Plains-Fanwood
Sept. 21 at Millburn
Sept. 27 Kent Place
Sept. 29 Governor Livingston
Oct. 1 at Randolph TBD
Oct. 3 at Summit
Oct. 6 Essex County Tournament, TBD
Oct. 8 Essex County Tournament, TBD
Oct. 10 at Glen Ridge
Oct. 11 at Wayne Hills
Oct. 12 Essex County Tournament, TBD
Oct. 13 Wayne Valley
Oct. 15 Essex County Tournament, TBD
Oct. 19 Montclair Kimberley
Oct. 21 Verona
Oct. 24 Livingston