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MKA's Max Hall (15), who had five goals in Tuesday's 12-8 Essex County Tournament quarterfinal win vs. Glen Ridge, fires shot toward Ridgers' net as goalie Adam Juros looks to make the save. (Photos by Gene Nann-nannphoto)

MKA's Max Hall (left) and Chris Sibilia (right) battle for ball vs. Glen Ridge

Glen Ridge's Tyler Grady (5) is checked as he makes move on goal vs MKA

MKA's Erik Zeug (left), who had his team's first goal, works vs. Ridgers

MKA wins a majority of its faceoffs behind efforts of Ben Yanes (11)

MKA Edges Glen Ridge, 12-8
To Move Into ECT Lax Semis

By Steve Tober

MONTCLAIR- On what was a rather eventful Tuesday of Essex County Lacrosse Tournament quarterfinal action – where both the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds were upset – the battle between longtime neighborhood rivals, fourth-seeded Montclair Kimberley Academy and fifth-seeded Glen Ridge, was pretty much what one would expect: a nip and tuck and physical battle right down to the wire.

The fact MKA came out on top, 12-8, over the Ridgers behind five Max Hall goals and a very timely insurance score by Joe Strain, is indicative of where the senior-led Cougar laxmen (9-3) are at this point of the season as they have both the talent and experience to be an ECT Final Four team, and they went about the business of securing that position with their well-earned quarterfinal win.

The prize for edging a persistent and gutsy Glen Ridge squad (3-10), which was playing with two starters sidelined by injury, is the monumental task of taking on top-seeded and 3-time defending ECT champ Seton Hall Prep, 4 p.m., Thursday (May 5) in the semifinals at the Kelly Athletic Complex in West Orange.

While the Pirates were dispatching with ninth-seeded Columbia, 16-8, as expected, the bottom side of the bracket proved anything but predictable as seventh-seeded Millburn upset second-seeded Caldwell, 8-7, in overtime, and sixth-seeded Montclair High edged third-seeded West Essex, 13-12, to set up a somewhat surprising ECT semifinal between the Millers and Mounties at Fortunato Field this afternoon.

The ECT final is set for 4:30 p.m., Saturday, at Nutley’s Tangorra Field at Park Oval. In the 2:30 p.m. ECT girls title tilt it will be fourth-seeded Verona, which is playing in its first-ever county final, vs. second-seeded Glen Ridge.

For MKA, which is led by a strong 10-member senior class that includes five college-bound lacrosse players and a future Division III college running back (defenseman Ethan Fusco), earning two wins over Glen Ridge this season (the Cougars also won a classic, come-from-behind 10-9 double-overtime decision last month at Watsessing Park) is testament to where this 2016 team is at the most critical juncture of its season, even with an obviously huge obstacle up next.

“Seton Hall is a fantastic team and deserve all the credit they get, but we’re confident that we come out and play a very good game and surprise them,” said Skidmore College-bound MKA senior close defenseman Chris Sibilia, who showed his versatility by scoring two goals against Glen Ridge on Tuesday, including one off a gorgeous feed from sophomore playmaker Jason Gertz (4 assists) to give the Cougars a 5-2 lead with 10:51 left in the first half. “We have a very experienced team that will be prepared to play in the county semifinals, and we’re extremely excited by the opportunity.”

The Gettysburg-bound Hall gave MKA a 8-6 lead over Glen Ridge with 10:08 left in the fourth quarter, an advantage that grew to 9-6 when sophomore Ryan Dancy (two goals, two assists) scored on a hard left-handed shot with 7:52 remaining.

An illegal stick call made against MKA led to a 3:00 penalty and gave the never-say-die Ridgers some new life which they capitalized on with a pair of Tyler Grady goals to pull to within 9-8 with 5:46 still showing.

That’s when the ability of MKA to check and clear with authority came through big-time as a long pass found Strain (28 goals on the season) on the right side and the Gettysburg-bound senior attackman fired home a fast-break goal for a 10-8 Cougars lead with 4:53 left.

Extra insurance goals by both Dancy and Hall in the closing three minutes accounted for the 4-goal margin of victory.

“Glen Ridge-MKA is always a good crosstown rivalry game and a war with emotions running high and it even gets chippy sometimes,” said Hall, who now has a team-leading 29 goals on the season. “Sibilia has been playing great, he is one our best defenders and is also an offensive threat who is huge off the wing on faceoffs.

“Dancy is a smart and a fundamentally-sound player, Joe (Strain) just has a knack for scoring huge goals, and Ben Yanes is tremendous on face-offs.

“We have the type of team that can win some more big games the rest of the way, that’s for sure!”

Getting to this point in the 2016 ECT was never easy, especially with having to ward off Glen Ridge, a team that had previously not lost to the Cougars since back in 2007 before dropping both meetings with its neighborhood rival this season.

“I want to give Glen Ridge a ton of credit because they have a bunch of guys hurt and they still battled us right to the end,” said MKA coach Paul Edwards. “Carl Houser is a great coach and did a real good job game-planning and his team gave us just a great game.

“Having that 3:00 non release due to the illegal stick call could have been worse for us than it was and I thought our guys did a real good job to get the ball out of our end and Joe Strain scored a huge goal.

“We’re going to begin planning right away for Seton Hall, put something together and then look to play the best we can and we’ll see how it turns out.

“We’re definitely excited to be playing in a county tournament semifinal and I think this group of guys, with the experience and composure they have shown all season long, will not be overwhelmed at all by the moment while having the opportunity to play a team that is the No. 1 seed for a very good reason.”

For Glen Ridge, it’s a matter of continuing to try and improve in the season’s stretch run with a young and talented group that may just need time to get back to the usual Ridger standards in terms of more victories than defeats over the course of a spring campaign.

“I thought our kids played with a lot of heart and even though we were sloppy at times today, which hurt us, we never gave up,” said Houser. “They have a really good senior class over there and are a good team.

“We’re young and we play a tough schedule, but our kids are getting better.”

LAX NOTES- Glen Ridge’s junior attackman Tyler Grady, who just came off the injured list and had two goals in Tuesday’s game, is the son of former Montclair High standout athlete and field hockey coach Kelly Sullivan and the grandson of former Montclair State head men’s lacrosse coach Tim Sullivan. Tyler’s sister, Colleen, is a junior standout midfielder on the Glen Ridge girls lacrosse squad…The Ridgers continue to play without two starters, freshman attackman Trever Deubner and senior midfielder Michael Faugno, who are both sidelined with injuries…Glen Ridge goalie Adam Juros had a couple of sensational saves on hard, in-close shots by MKA…the Cougars’ Sibilia, who is very good at taking advantage of ground balls created on the wings off faceoffs won by Yanes, is also an outstanding ice hockey player for MKA in addition to playing football in the fall…MKA sophomore reserve Harrison Walker is the son of former Cougar lacrosse-football standout Kent Walker, who played under coach Doug Alsofrom at MKA back in 1980.

ECT Boys Lacrosse Quarterfinal:

(5) Glen Ridge (3-10) 2 2 2 2 - 8

(4) MKA (9-3) 3 3 1 5 -12

Goals: Glen Ridge - Owen Gleason- 2, Tyler Grady-2, Paddy McDermott-1, Joe Marchesano-1, Steven Topping-1 Nathaniel Johns-1; MKA- Max Hall-5, Chris Sibilia-2, Ryan Dancy-2, Erik Zeug-1, Dom Romeo-1, Joe Strain-1

Assists: Glen Ridge- McDermott, Johns, Ege Zeybek, Topping; MKA- Jason Gertz-4, Dancy-2, Christian Breitweiser-1

Saves: Glen Ridge- Adam Juros- 13 MKA- Rob Strain- 7

Other ECT Quarterfinal Results On Tuesday:

(1) Seton Hall Prep 16 (9) Columbia 8

(6) Montclair 13 (3) West Essex 12

(7) Millburn 8 (2) Caldwell 7 (in OT)

Follow Steve Tober on Twitter @Chattermeister

Max Hall (15) is congratulated by MKA teammates after scoring one of his five goals during Tuesday's 12-8 ECT quarterfinal victory over Glen Ridge.

MKA sophomore Jason Gertz (18) was a superb set-up man with four assists

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