by Andrew Garda

The 2019 season has been a rough one for the Montclair High School girls’ volleyball team, and it didn’t get any easier on Monday, Oct. 28, when they battled Governor Livingston in their home finale at the MHS main gym.

The two teams battled hard in the first set, but the Highlanders eventually pulled away from the Mounties to win it, 25-10.

After a break, Montclair rallied, and took the second set 25-23.

The third set started off strong Montclair as they jumped out to an early lead, starting off with several points in a row, but then it was GL’s turn to rally, and they went on a long streak of kills and aces to come out on top, 25-10.

For head coach Pam Reilly, that was a pattern she’s seen a lot this season.

“Our matches are almost all identical,” she said in the coach’s office after the loss. “We lose the first set, sometimes we come back with a vengeance in the second set and it’s almost like a car that runs out of gas. We can’t sustain any momentum at all.”

Losing the first set makes it tough for the Mounties to climb back into a match, Reilly said.

“We shoot ourselves in the foot, we start in a hole a lot,” she explained. “[We’re] a really talented team, an extremely talented team. That’s been my dilemma, my quagmire all year. We have talent on this team. Why can’t we win games?”

This was not the season the Mounties (7-15) expected back in August. The team fought hard in the Super Essex Conference’s top division, the American, last year while getting a sophomore-heavy team a lot of experience.

The hope was to see those athletes take it to the next level this year, but instead, there have been struggles.

“The idea was to keep us in the American Division with juniors, a good group of players who played club volleyball, some of them on a national level. I thought we should have been even more competitive this year.”

One difference Reilly sees between her team and some of their opponents is the tightness of the team on the court.

“My assessment is the other teams play better together than we do,” she said.

There have been moments where Montclair lived up to their promise though, Reilly said. Sweeping three matches from Mount St. Dominic, one of which came in the Essex County Tournament, as well as wins against Belleville and Newark Academy.

The Mounties had one more match this season, away to West Orange Wednesday, Oct. 30, after press time. Then Coach Reilly and her staff will go back to the drawing board and try to figure out how to flip the script for next season.

Between now and then, the underclassmen team memberswill get back to work as well, heading off to their club teams, and working together in the offseason.

One thing there will be, Reilly says, is plenty of pieces to build on for 2020.

“We just have to figure out how to put them together,” said Reilly.