by Andrew Garda

The Montclair High School girls volleyball team got off to a strong start during their second set against Verona on Thursday, Oct. 4, but faltered late, losing the set and match.

The Mounties (4-9, 3-6) got off to a hot start leading Verona (13-3, 10-1) early after dropping the first set 25-15. The talented Verona squad surged however, pulling to 13-12 before MHS head coach Pam Reilly called a time out to try and regroup.

Despite that break, the Mounties never quite slowed Verona’s roll, falling behind shortly thereafter and falling 25-21.

It was a frustrating afternoon for Reilly, who feels her team is far more talented than it is showing on the court.

“We have a tendency to make good teams look phenomenal, and teams not at our level look like they can play with us,” she said. “We allow people to play with us who shouldn’t be in the gym with us. The teams who are good, we make them look like they’re ready to play against college teams. “

Reilly feels that while the Mounties show well in practice, when they get on the court they seem to talk themselves out of winning.

“As a team, we’re just too impressed with everybody we play. That’s some mental adjustment which needs to be made. We play good teams but we’re not playing collegiate teams in this division. We’re just playing teams who play better together than we do. They are just mentally tougher than we are,” Reilly said.

Reilly has tried different methods to get her players adjusted to pressure situations — putting points on the board and limited time on the clock, setting up game situations and more. While those things work in practice, for some reason the team steps on the court and can’t replicate their execution.

“Someone coming to practice would be totally surprised to see us play a game,” she said.

As was the case Thursday, all too often the Mounties come up short.

“I was counting how many times we had 24 points in a set and still lost. We needed one point and didn’t get it. That’s just heart and determination,” she said.

One big plus has been the play of sophomore Sienna Martinez. As a freshman, Martinez swung back and forth between the junior varsity and varsity roster. This season, she’s a foundational piece for the team.

“She presses a little too hard, and I have to catch myself and remember she is a sophomore, because she doesn’t play like a sophomore a lot of the time,” Reilly said. “She’s going to be an outstanding player.”

Martinez can’t do it herself though, and Reilly points out all six players on the floor have to do well if the team is going to win. And as a coach, Reilly can run all the drills she wants, but at the end of the day she can’t will the team to a win.

“Coaches can only put [players] in situations to be successful, players have to play.”