Montclair Kimberley boys lacrosse moves on to Non Public B state championship game
Montclair Kimberley boys lacrosse moves on to Non Public B state title game
The Montclair Kimberley Academy boys lacrosse squad is proving that sometimes you need to dig deeper than a team's record.
The Cougars showed that, despite being 4-13 going into their Non Public B state semifinals game, there was a reason they were the fourth seed and were the hosts against ninth-seeded Princeton Day, which had upset top-seeded Gill St. Bernard's, 7-6, in the quarterfinals.
Montclair Kimberley's offense was just too strong for Princeton Day, while Cougars goalie Jake Pryor swatted away a dozen shots as MKA advanced to the Non Public B state finals with a 12-10 victory on Saturday, May 28.
Junior Evan Grossman led the MKA offense with five goals, while sophomore Sam Rotella and senior Liam Hall added three goals and two goals respectively for the Cougars.
Pryor said that when the state playoffs began, it was a clean slate. "When we started the state tournament, our record was 0-0," he said.
In addition, by still being in the hunt for a state title, the Cougars wanted to put a dig into their rivals, Montclair, which defeated MKA, 9-4, on May 13. But the Mounties were eliminated by Bridgewater-Raritan in North Group 4 on May 21.
"I know that they were chirping, but we're still playing," Pryor said.
MKA looks to collect its first state title since 2012 when it takes on second seed Rutgers Prep in the Non Public B finals, tentatively set for Wednesday, June 1. Montclair Kimberley lost to Pingry in the 2021 Non Public B finals.
The Cougars lost to Rutgers Prep at their field, 11-7, in the Prep B tournament semifinals on April 28. Montclair Kimberley led 5-4 at halftime before Rutgers Prep took over.
Pryor believes MKA is a much improved team a month later, after that defeat in the Prep B tournament. "We are better, and we will have some players back this time," he said, mentioning that senior Brodie Snyder is expected to return after missing time with an injury. Snyder has 20 goals on the season.
The Princeton Day game took a little longer than usual, mainly because of an almost two-hour weather delay at the start of the second half.
For the Cougars players it was a mixed blessing, as they were sitting in the weight room eating watermelon. "I don't think it helped, but the coaches helped us get ready to go back, and it was to our advantage," Grossman said.
When they restarted two hours later, Montclair Kimberley got going six minutes into the play. It scored twice in a three-minute span with a goal each from Hall and Grossman, for an 8-5 lead.
MKA had the upper hand from the start, but could not fully put away the Panthers throughout the contest, even in the final minutes of the match.
Princeton Day continued to nibble at the Montclair Kimberley lead, and the Cougars at one point found their lead had shrunk to one, 8-7, behind Princeton Day's Max Johnson, who had a pair of goals on the day.
Junior Jordan Fishback gave Montclair Kimberley a little breathing room as he scored 13 seconds into the fourth period.
But Princeton Day came back to score with a little less than eight minutes left in the match to cut the MKA lead back to one, 9-8.
Sensing a key moment, Cougars head coach David Giarusso called a timeout.
"We were talking that we wanted to win this for the seniors since this will be their last game on this field," the coach said.
Pryor added about the timeout: "I was thinking as a senior that this will be the last time playing on this field."
The talk about the final minutes in 2022 on the Montclair Kimberley home field seemed to spark the Cougars.
The offense picked up the pace and scored three unanswered goals in the next two minutes, capped by Grossman's fifth goal of the game, which came with six minutes remaining and gave MKA a 12-8 lead.
Montclair Kimberley also received a goal each from Hall and Rotella in the three-goal stretch.
Princeton Day made it a little uncomfortable as the Panthers scored a pair of goals in the final five minutes, but MKA just had too much to overcome.
In the first half the Cougars jumped out to a fast start and found themselves ahead 5-2 after the first period.
"We're a team that wants to get off to a fast start, build off each other's play and get momentum," Grossman said. "We want to get the first punch in."
However, MKA could not shake Princeton Day, as the Panthers scored three unanswered goals to tie the match at five with three minutes remaining in the first half.
But Rotella sent Montclair Kimberley into halftime on a high as he scored with Princeton Day a man down to give the Cougars a 6-5 lead.