With an undefeated record of 15-0-1, the Montclair High School girls soccer team goes into every single game with the pressure of knowing that each opponent wants to be the ones who serve the Mounties their first loss of the season.
Still, despite the pressure, the Mounties have proven yet again that when it comes time to deliver, they know how to get the job done.
Despite the disadvantage of playing away, the Mounties squad found a way to defeat a tough Livingston High School team in a dramatic fashion, securing the win in penalty kicks to earn the Essex County Tournament Championship on Saturday, Oct. 19.
“This was the first county win [for every player on the team], so it was very special for all of us to finally get what we deserved, especially this year,” said junior midfielder Sydney Masur. “The win was extremely rewarding for me and the team because we have been working very hard this season, practicing, watching film and breaking down games.”
The game was an intense affair as the Mounties knew they would be facing a dominant Livingston team. Despite being under immense pressure in the first half, Montclair’s defense was able to lock down and thwart off the attacking Lancers, led by a strong performance from senior goalkeeper Amelia Platt.
Just about five minutes into the second half, Montclair’s junior striker Claire Manning notched a goal off a pass from junior Katie Giordano to take the lead.
“The pressure then seemed to lift, but Livingston scored a goal on an error at the back from us,” said head coach Ashley Hammond. “The game then became a slog and the two teams battled themselves to exhaustion.”
After a scoreless overtime period, the game was decided by penalty kicks, which the Mounties won by a score of 4-2, thanks to goal from Manning and sophomores Chloe Nemes, Shelby Duffy and Kiera Hessler.
“My players demonstrated enormous mental strength and all four that got to shoot took terrific penalty kicks,” Hammond said. “The squad of 20+ players has been very united and on Saturday, the 12th man — our fans really stepped up.”
For Masur, the win was all the more special because of the obvious chemistry between the teammates. “Everyone works for each other,” she said.
After securing the victory, the girls and staff, overcome by unbridled joy, threw themselves into a dog pile on the field to celebrate the triumph.
“I am fortunate to have incredible young women to work with,” Hammond said. “They are physically strong, technically capable and mentally as tough as any group that I have worked with. I have looked them in the eye every day and told them what I truly believe, which is that they are mentally strong and capable of anything. They show that every day.”
Going forward, the Mounties have their sights set on the NJSIAA Group 4 State Tournament title.