Montclair outmuscles MKA in field hockey battle in Essex County Tournament semifinals
Montclair field hockey took care of their rival sisters, Montclair Kimberley in the Essex County Tournament semifinals, earning another shot at West Essex.
The second-seeded Mounties had a steady pressure on the third-seeded Cougars from the opening whistle and finished off numerous chances in the 3-0 victory at home at Watchung Field on Wednesday afternoon.
Montclair Kimberley (9-5) had some opportunities but could not finish off the few close-in chances that the Montclair (9-3) defense allowed the Cougars.
The game was mainly 2-0 after the Mounties scored a couple of minutes into the second half. Montclair added the final goal in the remaining 10 seconds of the match.
Montclair senior Meghan Crane scored twice while sophomore Eliza Larson scored once. It was Larson's goal with a little more than eight minutes off the first quarter clock that turned out to be the game-winner.
For that goal, Larson was at the position she was supposed to be to shoot it by Montclair Kimberley keeper Maia Cesareo.
"We tried to stay low and we call it breathing at the post," Larson said about staying in her position. "We made sure our feet were planted firmly."
With the likes of Crane and Larson, they put the pressure on Cesareo, the goalkeeper who at times stood on her head. The MKA sophomore keeper made 13 saves and faced 22 shots on goal. Montclair also had 13 penalty corners.
The Mounties will try to win their first Essex County Tournament title since 2010 on Saturday, Oct. 15 (1 p.m.) but will have to get by top-seeded West Essex at their place. The Knights have won the tournament title every season since 2011 except when the tournament was not held in 2020 because of COVID. Montclair lost to the Knights, 6-0, in the ECT final last season.
In the first meeting between Montclair and West Essex, the Mounties lost 8-0 at home to the Knights at Watchung Field in Montclair on Sept.15.
Crane said that the pressure is on West Essex to keep the domination going. "We're going in that we have nothing to lose," the senior said against the Knights team that will be heavily favored.
Looking back at the first meeting between the two schools, sophomore Larson said, "We look back at it as a learning opportunity that came in early in the season."
Crane pointed out that the Mounties will need to disrupt West Essex's passing, which she said is “fluid.”
Against Montclair Kimberley, Montclair put on their hot sticks this season. With the two goals against the Cougars, Crane, who will be playing lacrosse at Gettysburg University next school year, has 11 goals on the season. Larson also has 11 goals for the 2022 season. Crane had only seven goals in 2021 when she did not start for the Mounties. This is Larson's first varsity season.
Coming into the contest with Montclair Kimberley, the Mounties had won seven out of the last eight games with the sole loss to Kent Place, 2-1 on Sept. 28. The Cougars were equally hot coming into the semifinal contest in winning seven of the last eight games with only a 3-2 loss to Summit on Sept. 29.
Despite having the better of the chances in the first half, Montclair was up only 1-0 at halftime as Cesareo and the MKA defense were able to withstand the Cougars shots.
"She said that we need to pick up the intensity," Crane said.
And the Mounties were able to follow through with a little more than three minutes off the third-quarter clock.
Crane was able to put a shot in the back of the net off a rebound that put more pressure on Montclair Kimberley to catch up.
The Cougars, behind the likes of Natalie Yu, Lucy Osterberg and Julia Flocco, did start to get some movement on offense toward Montclair keeper Cesareo but did not get the key shots like the Mounties.
With the seconds ticking off in the match, Crane added her second goal of the contest with only 10 seconds in the match for the 3-0 victory.