by Andrew Garda

Year one was a rough one for Mounties head coach Mike Diehl, who took over a Montclair High School boys lacrosse program which had seen two coaches in two years and with an uncertain future.

Diehl brought some stability, and even though the team went 3-14 in 2018, they enter 2019 with a good attitude and plenty of optimism.

“It’s been successful,” Diehl said of the preseason on a recent phone call. “I think there’s a different kind of attitude towards this season, it being my second year coaching. The returning players know the expectations. I think the seniors especially know what’s expected from them right away.”

Keys to 2019

Diehl said that the Mounties are going to look to the senior class to lead the way this season,  and perhaps the biggest impact will be the play of goalie Drew Skibniewski.

“Last year, because [Drew] transferred in, he was only able to play half a year,” Diehl said. “This year he can start right away. “

That could mean all the difference in the world, as the Wesleyan commit never quite got synced up with the team, which leaned heavily on Ashton Smith. With Smith gone, Skibniewski should settle into the top goaltending spot, something he’d been groomed for his freshman year at MHS, before going to private school out of state for a season.

A quick, focused and mentally tough netminder, Skibniewski is good for some fantastic saves when he’s on his game.

He hopefully won’t need to make too many “hero saves” though, as his defense will look to slow down the amount of shots they gave up last year.

Senior Harrison Blantz will lead the defense in 2019, just one year removed from an ACL injury that sidelined him all of 2018.

“He’s been rehabbing and working very hard to get healthy,” Diehl said. “For coming off an ACL and starting right away in March, he’s looked great. We really missed him last year, but he’s going to definitely be the leader on the defensive end, and shut down a lot of offensive opponents who need to be taken care of.”

Offensively, the Mounties will lean heavily on attacker Will Scheffenhaus and midfielders Christian Sanchez, and Jeikson Boyle.

“He’s been great ever since I’ve had the job at Montclair High,” Diehl said of Schiffenhaus, who will play lacrosse at the Naval Academy next season. “Last year, he was a force to be reckoned with and he has all the tools of a great attackman.”

Sanchez and Boyle are fantastic athletes who can help on both offense and defense. Their leadership of the midfielders, paired with that of Schiffenhaus upfront should give the rest of the team a foundation to rally around.

That let’s players like Lucas Podvey step up and shine.

“He’s going to be doing a lot with the midfield group,” Diehl said of the senior. “And doing a lot of things that won’t necessarily show up on the stat sheet. He has a great nose for ground balls, takes faceoffs and plays great defense.”

That blue-collar mentality will be vital this season, as players beyond the starters and stars will be the difference in how many wins this team adds to last season’s total.

Senior Will Schiffenhaus pictured here in 2018, will be a huge part of the offense for Montclair in the upcoming season.
Senior Will Schiffenhaus pictured here in 2018, will be a huge part of the offense for Montclair in the upcoming season.

Pace and Positivity

Diehl’s biggest talking points to his team as 2019 kicks off are pace and positivity.

“Pretty much every day we’ve talked about the pace we practice with. So moving from one drill to another, getting a lot in during the two hours we’re out there every day.  Being able to practice for a full two hours with high focus and high effort and how that will translate into our games.”

Aside from that focus and pace, Diehl needs his team to worry only about what they can control. Not the other team, not the officials. Just themselves.

“Reacting to the game in the appropriate way. And if we take care of those things, I really do believe that we’ll get more wins in that win column.