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Seton Hall Prep's senior face-off man Thomas Colucci (9), seen here moving forward vs. MKA in early-season Super Essex Conference-American Divison action, is one of the solid performers for a very deep and talented Pirate lax squad which will be seeking a seventh straight Essex County Tournament title when the field is set on Wednesday, April 24. (Photo by Richard Morris/SHP)

SHP A Huge Favorite Yet Again
But ECT Could Still Have Intrigue

By Steve Tober
for sidelinehatter.com

The trend has already been set as Seton Hall Prep has steamrolled through Glen Ridge, Montclair Kimberley Academy, Caldwell and Montclair in succession in Super Essex Conference-American Division regular season action, outscoring that quintet of county foes by a combined 65-27.

With the Essex County Tournament seeding meeting fast approaching (Wednesday, April 24), the 6-time defending champion Pirates will be a huge favorite to cop yet another ECT crown, but who lines up opposite them in the final, and what highly-competitive matchups ensue in the quarters and semis, may wind up producing the best drama of the annual countywide lacrosse event.

Caldwell (7-2), despite dropping recent back-to-back games to both SHP (14-6, April 9) and West Morris (15-7, April 16), is a likely No. 2 seed and would be the logical pick for a return trip to the ECT final opposite SHP, who it lost to, 22-11, in last year’s title tilt at Verona. But -depending on how the field is seeded on Wednesday - the Chiefs could wind up facing strong competition from the likes of Glen Ridge (4-3), Montclair (6-4) and West Essex (5-3), while both MKA (4-3) and Livingston (5-5) are certainly capable of playing well enough to advance to at least an ECT Final Four.

SHP, which owned a perfect 10-0 overall record after its recent SEC win over Montclair, has a number of bona fide scoring threats and depth throughout its lineup while giving every indication that it could be the favorite to capture a Non-Public A title, a crown dominated in recent years by Delbarton; however, the Green Wave have already dropped a regular season match at SHP (13-9 on April 11).

“Seton Hall is surgical with the way they only take good shots and players like No. 1 (junior midfielder Connell Kumar), No. 6 (junior attack Luke Blanc) and No. 9 (senior face-off man Thomas Colucci) are very good, plus their play in goal is solid,” said MKA’s longtime coach Paul Edwards. "They’ve certainly once again served notice on the rest of the SEC as far as just how strong a team they are.”

Glen Ridge, under the guidance of veteran coach Carl Houser, may have gotten a leg up in terms of possibly earning the third seed at next Wednesday’s ECT meeting following a narrow 7-6 win over West Essex.

The Knights had been playing very well, winning five straight before that setback, including a 12-11 non-conference win over West Morris.

Montclair, which upended MKA, 9-4, on April 13, has progressed well under second-year coach Mike Diehl and have a nice mix of youth and experience which has combined to produce the most positive vibe for the Mountie laxmen in at least the past few seasons.

Livingston, which owns an early-season win over West Essex, has lost five of its last six after a quick start to the spring, but can be an explosive team. The Lancers were certainly respectable vs. SHP falling 11-7 on April 15.

MKA, with a talented sophomore class helping set the tone, looks to build on its most recent victory as it edged Livingston, 11-8, Thursday, behind a combined seven goals and three assists from sophomore midfielders Rollins Heath and OB Sedransk and superb play in goal from freshman Jake Pryor.

“I don’t think there is really much that separates the six teams (Caldwell, Glen Ridge, West Essex, Montclair, MKA and Livingston) after Seton Hall,” said Edwards. “There should be some very competitive games in the county tournament and I know we’re looking forward to it.”

The ECT first round is slated for Saturday, April 27, followed by the quarterfinals on Tuesday, April 30, and semifinals on Thursday, May 2, at the higher-seeded team’s home field.

The ECT boys final is scheduled for 4 p.m., Saturday, May 4, at West Essex’s Travis Field preceding the county tourney girls final which is slated for 6 p.m.     

Follow Steve Tober on Twitter @Chattermeister

Sophomore attackman Tyler Fullerton (24) is one of the exciting, young players on the rise for improved Montclair team. (Photo by Doug Allen)

Senior strongman Charlie Pierce (20, right) is one of the veterans for the Caldwell Chiefs who will be aiming for return trip to the ECT final when 2019 event seeds field. (Photo by Gene Nann - genenann.smugmug.com)

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