Montclair Kimberley clinches Prep B crown
Montclair Kimberley Academy had a full week of practice leading into this game last year against Rutgers Prep, and the ample preparation time made all the difference in that 10-goal rout.
With free time greatly reduced this year, the difference for MKA wound up being compressed into a defensive adjustment during the 10-minute halftime and a stirring sequence by goalie Craig Schweitzer in the final 10 seconds of play.
A zone defense limited Rutgers Prep to two second-half goals and Schweitzer made two fabulous stops in those last ticks while man-down to rally top-seeded MKA past second-seeded Rutgers Prep, 9-8, for the state Prep B championship Tuesday afternoon at VanBrunt Field in Montclair.
Matt Lane scored one goal and had three of his five assists in the second half and Maurice Walsh, Dylan Parker, Tommy Fusco and Patrick Karole each connected once in the span to help MKA (14-4) erase a 6-4 deficit en route to a second consecutive Prep B crown.
But if not for Schweitzer, those guys were likely going to heat up their sticks for overtime.
"That was the longest 10 seconds of my life, but he was standing on his head," Walsh said of Schweitzer. "I love Craig for that. I've played with him for four years, and I've seen him do that a lot."
Schweitzer squared up to knock away a one-one-one shot from in close by Evan Lombardo with 10 seconds left, but it caromed hard off the goalie's stick and out of his reach. Elliot Dennis raced through the box for the rebound and charged the net for the dunk three seconds later. Schweitzer stuffed it and worked the ball downfield out of harm's way.
"Just the thought that we were in man down got me going," Schweitzer said. "I just took all that energy and just really focused and went after it. It worked out."
Schweitzer recorded seven of his 12 saves after intermission, though the first five of the second half were much less eventful than his final two. The Cougars had switched from man-to-man to an infrequently dispatched zone, and their hard work in the scheme removed a good bit of explosiveness from the Rutgers Prep offense.
"They couldn't really figure out how to get by it," Schweitzer said. "Basically, we just held them to outside shots and that really helped out."
The Cougars might have opened up in a zone if they had a portion of the time accorded to them last year against Rutgers Prep. But MKA had three games within a four-day span last week, including a 14-9 loss to glen Ridge Thursday in the Essex County Tournament semifinals.
"On the one hand, it was hard because you've got a lot of lacrosse in a short period of time," MKA head coach Paul Edwards said. "On the other hand, sometimes games are even better than practice because you're playing at a higher pace and your focus has to be sharper."
Montclair Kimberley's defensive unit was compromised in that game against Glen Ridge when Jon Kingsley was sidelined with a concussion. But senior football standout Blake Rohde, a first-year lacrosse player, stood in strong as Kingsley's replacement against Rutgers Prep.
"This was the first start of his life, and I thought Blake did a real good job," Edwards said. "He's an athlete and a tough kid. We put him in there to see what he could do, and he held his own."
Rohde and his fellow defenders had to hold their ground, or else resourceful junior middie Donald Stephan was likely to find way to return the Prep B trophy to Rutgers Prep, which defeated MKA for the 2010 championship.
Stephan netted three goals in the last 8:18 of the first half to hand the Argonauts (9-6) a 6-4 advantage. He scored twice off dodges from the high restraining line and another on a quick move and sizzling shot from nine yards away.
Stephan had four of his shots halted by Schweitzer in the second half, though the versatile middie was able to knot the score at 7-7 when he unloaded a 12-yarder off a feed by Mitch Hagan with 8:48 remaining in the game. Karole gave the lead back to MKA on an extra-man opportunity with 5:53 to go, and Tommy Fusco made it 9-7 off a pass from Phillips just 22 seconds later.
"Pat's one of those guys who, when you need something, he figures out a way to do it," Edwards said of Karole, who doubles as a top-flight defender and an offensive player on the EMO. "And little Tommy Fusco makes big plays between the lines. He scored a very big goal for us, and had a big check on the faceoff to force the out-of-bounds. That was a huge turnover for us."
Montclair Kimberley's schedule last week was hectic and also extremely emotional. It had been mourning the May 5 death of former teammate and Lafayette College freshman Everett Glenn.
"That's been an ongoing thing," Schweitzer said. "We’ve been getting together as a team, sticking together, picking each other up."
Mike Kinney covers boys lacrosse for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeKinneyHS