by Andrew Garda

As the Montclair High School volleyball team gets ready for the Essex County Tournament, coach Pam Reilly is happy but not content.

Landing the No. 7 seed in the bracket is good since it gives the Mounties a bye through the first two rounds, but Reilly thinks they can do better.

“There’s still a whole bunch of things we need to do defensively,” she said Tuesday after practice. “I’m not satisfied with our aggression defensively, but overall the girls are doing a good job.”

Don’t mistake Reilly’s perfectionism for negativity, though. She just knows what this team is capable of and what it has to face in the tournament.

The Mounties’ Round of 16 matchup is slated for tonight, Oct. 19, at 5:30 against  No. 10 seed North 13th Street Tech.

While MHS beat North 13th in both meetings this season, the Mounties had to fight hard for both matches, and on the road were pushed to three sets.

“North 13th is a very well coached, very scrappy team,” Reilly said. “They play a decent brand of volleyball, so we need to be on top of our game.”

While the Mounties are fortunate to play the game at home, Reilly said they can’t afford to look past anyone.

If they get past North 13, MHS is likely to face No. 2 seed Mount St. Dominic, a team they lost to in straight sets in their only meeting, back in September.

While she expects improvement from her team, Reilly is happy with how the season has gone overall, especially the seed the Mounties find themselves in.

“I’m ecstatic about the highest seed we’ve had during my time here,” Reilly said. “And it’s due to the hard work of the young ladies in the program.”

On top of it, Reilly said, other programs are taking notice of the Mounties.

“We were actually being mentioned during the seeding meeting, as one of the top teams in the Liberty division, which is something that never happened before,” Reilly said. “It happened in my mind but we never had the record for it or the statistics to prove it and now we do. So we’re getting recognition from other coaches in the league. That’s an accomplishment.”

As far as Reilly is concerned, this team will go as far as they believe they can.

“The young ladies are starting to realize their potential and see they are good volleyball players. What good hard work can do and pay off.”

Key to that will be the team continuing to play as one unit, to have one another’s back and to compete hard every point. The team is very talented and can attack the opposition in many ways.

“Unlike last year [when] we pretty much depended on our middle hitter, we have a really balanced attack,” Reilly said. “A great number of young ladies are stepping up and embracing the fact that they can make a contribution.”

That gives Reilly a lot of confidence that the Mounties are a team that’s tough to contain.

“I’ve always wanted to have a ton of weapons. If you only have one weapon, then it’s easy to shut you down. But if you have three or four, or five weapons, it’s hard to do that. And if we’re firing on all cylinders, we present a problem for people when we show up to play.”