NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — There are now three certainties in life: death, taxes and the West Essex field hockey team’s participation in the Essex County Tournament finals following an impressive 8-0 victory over Millburn in the semifinals on Saturday.
The win secures the Knights’ ninth-consecutive trip to the championship game, where they will look to defend their Essex County title against Montclair.
“It feels great,” said West Essex head coach Jill Cosse. “I think that the county is a great barometer of what the states are going to set you up for—at least the first couple of rounds. I have a lot of respect for the Essex County coaches.”
The Knights dominated the contest from start to finish to the tune of 18 shots compared to only three for Millburn. Ultimately, West Essex cruised to victory by producing seven first-half goals.
“We definitely didn’t come into the game taking them for granted,” said Cosse. “We beat them 7-2 on opening day, but they have some really good players, so we were not going to come into this game and not give them credit.”
The star of the contest for the Knights was sophomore Cait Lutz, who scored a game-high four goals on the afternoon. Lutz has now scored five goals in her last two games to go along with seven total points.
“The first game against them we were a little rusty and I just wanted to prove to them how much better we got,” said Lutz, who later added that the team is “starting to work together as one [and] trust each other.”
Although the sophomore took center stage for West Essex, the team as a whole has proved its ability to work as a unit. Led by a quartet of four starting seniors, the group has gelled to a 13-1-1 record this season.
“I think all my seniors—especially my starters—really got this team moving,” said Cosse. “Combine that with the meat of my younger girls, they’re really good; they’re athletic and they enjoy sports…It’s fun to coach this team. They really enjoy competing.”
In addition to Lutz’s four goals on Saturday, seniors Cameron Kinsella and Emily Holleuffer joined freshmen Gianna Macrino and Gianna Puorro also contributed to the goal tally for the Knights. Additionally, sophomore Julianna Tornatore contributed a pair of assists for the Knights to broadcast the depth on the roster.
“Everything we do starts with the team,” said Lutz, who specifically acknowledged the defensive unit. “It’s not one person running the whole show like it has been sometimes; it’s one team working towards the one goal to finish.”
Now that the team is “on track with a lot of grit and toughness,” Cosse concluded that “what it’s going to take is never underestimating our opponent” moving forward.
“I think they have to just keep loving what they’re doing every day,” said Cosse. “And if they don’t want the season to end, it’s in their hands.”
Montclair also won its own match on Saturday, defeating Glen Ridge, 4-0, to secure the other spot in the title game. The team is now 11-4-1 overall compared to West Essex’s record of 13-1-1.
The Knights will also take on Summit in a regular-season matchup on Wednesday.