THE CALDWELLS, NJ -- Call them fledgling no more.
Though just in its sixth year of existence, the fifth-seeded field hockey contingent from Mount Saint Dominic Academy battled one of the oldest sides in the state right down to the final seconds, but still fell to fourth-slotted Montclair Kimberley Academy, 3-2, on the strength of a goal with 23.10 seconds left in regulation last Thursday, at Muenster Field in Montclair.
That fine effort was followed by a, 3-1, defeating Millburn on Oct. 20, as the Mount moved to (10-6-1) and garnered a double-digit win total for the first time in the program's short history.
The result in the game against MKA sent the homestanding Lady Cougars into the Essex County Tournament's final four, where Montclair Kimberley Academy was shutout, 3-0, by top-slotted West Essex Regional on Oct. 10, at Travis Field in North Caldwell.
West Essex went on to earn the county crown by mashing Montclair, 6-0, on Oct. 17, marking the third straight time that Wessex manhandled MHS by that same score.
The Mount's win over Millburn came after the sixth-slotted Lady Millers had upset third-seeded Glen Ridge, 2-0, in second round ECT action.
Playing what may just have been its best game ever, MSDA outshot MKA, 23-18.
The Lady Cougars took a, 1-0, lead on a goal with 25:11 left in the first frame, before the Mount tied the tight tilt at one-all with 14 minutes left, on a tally by junior Jackie Smith off a feed from sophomore Courtney Callahan.
In the second stanza, MKA took a, 2-1, lead with 25 minutes to go, but, once again, the Mount came right back to knot the score, this time on a score by 11th-grader Bridget LaRiccia at the 15-minute mark.
Then, after MSDA soph cage-controller Sydney Shearn stopped a penalty stroke with about two minutes left in regulation, MKA senior captain Izzy Mendez lifted a perfectly placed shot off a penalty corner over Shearn's head and just under the top of the cage to score the deciding goal with just seconds left in the second half.
In the locals' win at Millburn, the Mount went up, 1-0, on a goal by sophomore center forward Courtney Callahan off a feed from her cousin, senior right midfielder Lauren Callahan, a Roseland resident, with 26:09 left in the first half.
The lead moved to, 2-0, when junior central middie Bridget LaRiccia tallied off a pass from L. Callahan with 22:50 remaining in the first frame.
In the second stanza, LaRiccia scored, unassisted, at the 14:53 mark, before Millburn ended the shutout bid with 4:39 on the clock.
Interestingly, Millburn outshot the Mount, 13-12, and fashioned a 7-5 edge in corners, with MSDA cage-controller Sydney Shearn, a Roseland dweller, making four saves in the victory.
Tuesday's outcome dropped Millburn to (10-8-1), while the Mount moved to (10-6-1) as the Lady Lions program registered its first ever 10-win season.
“I think we've definitely turned the page and closed the gap between our team and the established powers in Essex County; our girls played incredibly well against both MKA and Millburn and I couldn't be happier with their efforts,” lauded fourth-year MSDA head coach Liz Gennaro, a West Essex alum, of her charges, adding, “now that we, finally, have gotten to double-digits in wins, I feel as if I can take a deep breath and not worry so much.”
“I thought our team played very well from the beginning to the end of both games,” said LaRiccia, adding, “I'm so proud of everyone! The coaches worked us hard over the past couple of weeks and it has really paid off.”
Next up for Gennaro's gang will be a tussle against the homestanding Kent Place School in Summit at 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 24.