Montclair Kimberley Academy field hockey: ‘No limit to how much they can grow’
The Montclair Kimberley field hockey team had the unfortunate task of opening its season against Essex County powerhouse West Essex.
The Cougars (8-4) were shut out 8-0 by the Knights but won eight of their next 11 contests and are now the third seed in the Essex County Tournament.
"So facing West Essex in the season opener is always tough; they usually field a team that is as good, if not slightly better, than our team," Cougars coach Injoo Han said. "However, we train our players to take away one or more lessons from every game, win or lose, and use those lessons to prepare for future contests and focus our strengths."
For the 2022 season Montclair Kimberley has a mainly young and inexperienced group after seven seniors graduated from a Cougars team that went 15-7-1 in 2021 and won the Prep B Tournament.
For the Essex County Tournament, MKA is behind only top-seeded West Essex and second-seeded Montclair. The Cougars were to travel to Montclair on Wednesday, Oct. 12, in an ECT semifinals battle,.
Han expects her team to be right there for every tournament it is in this season.
"There is no question this team can compete with anyone, and we fully expect to be competitive in the final rounds of the tournament," the coach said. "The strength of this team is that there is no limit to how much they can grow and develop, and there is little doubt that each of our players is committed to honing their individual skill sets in ways that build a stronger team."
Because of the graduations MKA has four starting freshmen, Julia Flocco and Addie Goldstein on the forward line and Shea Murphy and Maggie Murphy in the midfield.
"They have all been great additions for us this season, especially after having graduated seven seniors," Han said. "The younger players on the team are all athletic, coachable, enthusiastic, and it has been extremely exciting to watch their growth and improvement in real time. They are really starting to understand our system, working well with their teammates on the field and taking ownership of their role on the team both on and off the field."
Montclair Kimberley does have some top players back in senior Natalie Yu and junior Mimi Temkin, who garnered All Super Essex Conference American Division first- and second-team honors, respectively, last year. Temkin is the Cougars’ leader in assists so far this season, with 10 at the end of last week.
"The veteran leaders have been extremely capable leaders and have grown into the backbone of the team," Han said.
Along with Yu and Temkin, the other leader this season is senior Caroline Murphy, who is the team's top scorer with 17 goals as of the end of last week. "Natalie, Caroline and Mimi have really stepped up as leaders both on and off the field," the coach said. "With a relatively new team and a shortened preseason, they have worked hard to make sure everyone is on the same page and the expectations are clear."
In goal it will be all sophomore Malia Cesareo, who gets her turn with the graduation of Phoebe Williams, an All SEC American honorable mention keeper last season. Cesareo showed her grit and the quality of her play in a 1-0 loss at Kent Place, making 13 saves.
"Our starting goalie, Malia Cesareo, was a large part of keeping that game close," Han said. "Having an early season opportunity for Malia to shine and feel her position under pressure will only aid us in the long run. Malia has really stepped-up big time this year."