Montclair High School girls soccer team upset in Essex County Tournament semis
The Montclair High School girls soccer team found out the hard way that the sport can be very, very cruel.
One team can dominate another and still come out on the short end of the stick.
That was the case on Wednesday night, Oct. 19, when the Mounties controlled the Essex County Tournament semifinals game against 12th-seeded Glen Ridge from the opening kickoff at Livingston High School to the final whistle.
But at the end of the evening, Montclair’s extreme pressure came to naught, as Glen Ridge’s few chances hit the back of the net for a 2-1 victory.
“I thought we played great football all night,” Montclair head coach Ashley Hammond said. “We didn't finish off our chances, and they did.”
Glen Ridge goalkeeper Olivia Gist made nine saves in the match, including
several tough ones. But they did not include several Montclair shots that sailed to the left or right of the goal. “She made some great saves and stood on her head,” Hammond said.
In addition to missing out on winning the program's 17th county title, the loss ended the team's hopes of going undefeated this season as it dropped to 13-1-1.
“I have no complaints on how the girls played,” the coach said.
Glen Ridge’s Ava Kotronis had both of her team’s goals, one of which was a direct kick from 30 yards out that sailed over the head of Mounties senior Teah Glorie 10 minutes into the match. The other Kotronis goal came with 11 minutes remaining in the first half, about 25 yards out, over the head of Glorie and to
the right of the Montclair keeper.
Montclair’s lone goal came from senior Hazel Aiello, a direct kick from 21 yards out over the head of Gist, a dozen minutes into the match. But the Mounties could not get another shot past Gist.
After Glen Ridge took its 2-1 lead, the Ridgers “parked the bus,” a term in soccer meaning a team basically lies back on defense in front of the goalie. “It’s not the type of soccer that we like to play,” Hammond said.
A goal by Montclair to equalize the match at two would have brought Glen Ridge out of its defensive strategy.
That never came from Montclair.
As the minutes ticked away in the second half, there was still hope for the Mounties, who had faced late-game scenarios like this a few times this season. Of particular note was their defeat of Millburn, 3-2, on Oct. 6, when the Mounties were down late in the match, 2-1. But senior Sonia Neighbors scored two of her three goals in the final minutes to get the win.
“We’ve faced this several times before,” Hammond said. “I thought we handled the pressure (late in the game) well.”
One of the best out of numerous opportunities came with 10 minutes off the clock in the second half. Neighbors shot from 25 yards out but hit the crossbar; the ball then bounced up to hit the football goal post to cause a goalie kick.
Montclair had numerous corners, especially in the second half, while the Ridgers had nary a one.
With Glen Ridge playing back, especially in the second half, many of Montclair's shots came from 35 yards out. When they did get close, within 20 yards or so, the Mounties’ players were double- or triple-teamed inside the box, and the forwards could not get great shots.
Hammond knew that it was going to be a difficult battle with Glen Ridge, which got to the semifinals by defeating fourth-seeded Verona in penalty kicks after a 0-0 contest.
“We knew that they were going to be tough,” said the coach, whose team nipped Glen Ridge, 1-0, on Sept. 19 at Glen Ridge.
With the county tournament in their rearview mirror, the Mounties now look to bring home a state title. As of Oct. 18, Montclair was the second seed in North 1 Group 4, behind only Ridgewood. The Mounties lost a tough 2-1 decision at Ridgewood in the North 1 Group 4 semifinals last season.
Hammond and Montclair can take solace in winning the Super Essex Conference American Division title recently. They clinched the top division in the county after the 3-2 victory over Millburn.