Longtime Montclair girls lacrosse coach Ann Jennings appreciates rich history of the sport in her hometown which will be rekindled once again during the sixth annual Lax Ball which is set to go on Friday night at the Commonwealth Club. (Photos by Gene Nann-genenann.smugmug.com)
One of Montclair's modern-day standouts is U.S. Naval Academy commit Will Schiffenhaus who is currently busy as a senior captain of the Mounties ice hockey team which is in the midst of a successful winter sports campaign.
Montclair’s Lax Ball Friday Night
As The Rich History Is Rekindled
By Steve Tober
MONTCLAIR- Montclair lacrosse’s influence on the Mid-Atlantic landscape had quite the impact back in 1970 when a New Jersey team with a strong Mountie influence defeated a Baltimore County all-star squad in a game that attracted several college coaches and put Garden State boys lacrosse on the map to stay.
Fast forward 49 years later, or nearly a half century, and Montclair lacrosse, both on the girls’ and boys’ sides, is alive and well and seeking to remain a vital part of the Jersey lax landscape, a quest that can be enhanced by becoming part of the sixth annual MHS Lax Ball, set for 7-11:30 p.m., Friday, Jan. 25, at the Commonwealth Club, 26 Northview Ave., in Upper Montclair.
It will be a great opportunity to break bread and chat with all those connected with Montclair lacrosse including the Mountie boys’ second-year head coach, Michael Diehl, who began to establish his own system with the Mounte laxmen last spring and looks for improvement in 2019.
“We hope for everyone to be a part of a great community event in a relaxed atmosphere, sharing stories and laughs and bringing both boys and girls youth and high school programs together for a terrific evening to help all the teams,” said Ann Jennings, the veteran Montclair High girls lacrosse head coach and former standout player for the Mounties. “This fundraiser helps both the boys and girls youth and high school programs, but – most importantly - scholarships for players in order to participate in our youth programs to ensure everyone has the opportunity to be a part of this great game.”
The Montclair High boys lacrosse tradition, of course, is highlighted by the impact of the late, great coach Gil Gibbs, who compiled a 177-35 record during his coaching career, including a run of 144-10 from 1969 to 1978, including seven straight state championships and a share of an eighth NJSIAA title during that stretch of time which remains the most impressive streak of success in the history of the sport at the scholastic level in New Jersey.
Montclair, which won its last championship in Group 4 in 2010, is expected to have a very good turnout for this spring’s squads.
“Coach Gibbs’ impact on Montclair lacrosse was simply immense, and the girls had their own growth in terms of a program on the rise in the late 1970s and early ‘80s under coach Hope Kerr,” said Jennings. “We like to always remember the great pioneers in the sport here in Montclair, and while those attending recent Lax Balls have been mostly current lacrosse families, we would love to have more alumni attend the event and become involved with what we’re doing to help our lacrosse-playing youth.”
In just a brief historical context, the Gibbs Mountie lacrosse teams set the tone for a lifetime with 17 high school All-Americans, 44 first-team all-state players and five straight statewide players of the year in Billy McCutcheon (1971), Gary Mercadante (’72), Mike Hynes (’73), Bob Ott (’74), Joe Reilly (’75), and Mark Tyree (’77).
Also, he had eight of his standout Mounties move on to play at NCAA powers Maryland, Johns Hopkins and Navy, including current Montclair Kimberley Academy head coach Paul Edwards (Hopkins). Those eight Montclair laxmen wound up playing in 42 Final Fours at the Division I level
Another early era of Mountie lacrosse that should not be overlooked is the actual start of the sport at MHS which started in 1964 thanks to lacrosse pioneer Duncan Sinnock and then AD Clary Anderson.
Among the early players for Montclair in the very beginning were Dave Cushman, Bruce Taylor, Bill Swann, John Harney, Marshall Brewington, Ken Newsome and Steve Bliss.
“The great history of Montclair lacrosse is remarkable to reflect on, and we hope to build new, terrific stories of success with our current group of youth and high school players,” continued Jennings. “By attending the annual Lax Ball and helping to support the great sport of lacrosse in Montclair you will be helping future generations who can look to uphold the rich tradition established by Coaches Sinnock, Gibbs and Coach Kerr.”
Those interested in attending the 5th annual Lax Ball on Friday can purchase tickets on line at www.montclairgirlslacrosse.com.
Follow Steve Tober on Twitter @Chattermeister
Michael Diehl will return for a second season as Montclair High's boys lacrosse coach as that program looks to show improvement this spring.
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