Montclair Kimberley Academy field hockey team makes great strides with young players
The Montclair Kimberley field hockey team came into the 2022 season with a lot of uncertainty and inexperience.
But as the season progressed, the young Cougars also progressed, and they finished with a 14-8 record while bringing home a Prep B championship, making it back-to-back Prep B titles.
"Coming into this season we had so many new faces, new players to field hockey and to our team — there were definitely some growing pains, but to see the development and growth of each individual player and thereby the team as a whole was very rewarding," Montclair Kimberley head coach Injoo Han said.
"If you saw our team from the first day on August 22nd to the last day in November, you wouldn’t believe it was the same team — and that is an amazing testament to the work ethic of each player."
One of the team’s best-played games came in the Prep B title match, a 5-2 victory on Oct. 27 at home against Princeton Day.
Montclair Kimberley took over in the fourth quarter after holding only a slight 2-1 advantage.
"There are so many moments this season that showed how far we’ve come, but we won this Prep final because we never stopped pushing them," Han said. "We played a full 60-minute game, effectively shutting down their better players, playing through every ball and connecting with each other on the field, and never letting up.
“We would go on to a scoring momentum that was spread across five different players and lasted through the final seconds of the game."
While the squad was predominantly young, the top players were the senior duo of Natalie Yu and Caroline Murphy, who collected All Super Essex Conference American Division first-team honors.
Yu was the rock of the defense and still managed seven goals and eight assists; she really excelled as the season progressed, especially in the tough contests, including the Prep B final.
"What made Natalie stand out to me as the season progressed is that you can see her skill, experience and tenacity become even more visibly pronounced when we would play tougher competition and tournament games that mattered more," Han said.
"She certainly delivered in bigger games this season … She would always show up and dominate. She has held down our defense since her freshman year, and we couldn’t have asked for more from her over her career."
Despite being moved from forward to center-midfield, Murphy continued to excel, no matter where she was on the field, while leading Montclair Kimberley with 24 goals.
"And while Caroline preferred to be on the forward line, she was willing to play the difficult position of high center mid for some of our bigger games of the season, even knowing that it required more fitness — she was willing to do what was best for the team," Han said.
"This year her skill has grown exponentially, which allowed her to create and facilitate more on offense: Her ability to finish in front of the cage proved to be her greatest strength."
The youth showed in the All SEC American Division second team, with four players who will be back for 2023: junior Mimi Temkin, a pair of sophomores, Sydney Fradette and Malia Cesareo, the team's top keeper, and freshman Shea Murphy.
Han is glad that Temkin will be back next season. Temkin collected 15 goals and 14 assists this fall and made a big impact on the Cougars.
"Mimi takes our game and our team to another level. Our outcomes are often largely dependent on Mimi’s play," the coach said.
"Playing in the center of the field, she has the ability to control the flow of the game and enable the passing game — and I really appreciated the relationships she’s tried to build both on and off the field to facilitate this season."
In the back there was a solid pair of sophomores to go along with Yu. Fradette and Cesareo kept the opposing offenses off the scoreboard.
"Sydney is a solid team player. Playing either a side back or center back, she 100 percent holds her own in our defensive end," Han said.
The coach said Cesareo just started playing field hockey as a freshman. "She agreed to try the goalie position last year, and I cannot believe that she is the same person under those pads from a year ago,” she said.
“Her progression has truly been impressive. She worked incredibly hard in the off-season to make this kind of transformation and development, knowing she would have to step into being our starting varsity goalie."
Despite the loss of the two seniors, the Cougars look to make more inroads in the Super Essex Conference and the state tournament next season with a majority of the 2022 squad returning.
MKA field hockey honors
SEC American Division
Natalie Yu, senior
Caroline Murphy, senior
Mimi Temkin, junior
Syndey Fradette, sophomore
Malia Cesareo, sophomore
Shea Murphy, freshman