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MKA senior Lily Pryor is completing a stellar 2-sport scholastic career in which she has helped both programs set new standards, including this spring as Cougar girls lacrosse reached the Essex County Tournament final for the first time. (Photo by Gene

MKA girls lacrosse senior quad captains, from left, Lily Pryor, Reilly Hughes, Kirsten Zeug and Ally Raff happily display the N.J. state prep B-Division championship trophy which the Cougars won with spirited 14-11 comeback win vs. Trinity Hall in the May 14th final. (Photo courtesy of MKA Athletics)

MKA’s Pryor Part Of Senior Class
 That Set Standards In Two Sports

By Steve Tober

The end of the school year is a time for reflection on terrific scholastic sports careers for senior athletes and at Montclair Kimberley Academy one of the true leaders and trailblazers in two sports has been Lily Pryor who is about to complete her fourth and final season for the Cougar girls lacrosse team (15-5), which was eliminated from the NJSIAA North 2, Group 1 state tournament on Thursday in a tough 15-13 loss at New Providence, but did earn an exciting 14-11 come-from-behind win over Trinity Hall in the prep B tournament final on Tuesday (May 14th).

Joined by boys soccer star Dylan Ladda (College of Charleston) in being the MKA representatives at the recent (May 7th) Essex County Athletic Director’s Association Scholar-Athlete Awards Dinner at Mayfair Farms, Pryor was joined by her head coaches in girls soccer and lacrosse – Christie Welsh and Chelsea Intrabartola – along with girls lax assistant coach Allie Shearin in enjoying one more accolade for a Cougar senior who certainly helped set new standards in both sports.

But, beyond any individual honors, and she’s had many, what stands out most for Pryor is the fact she’s enjoyed simply being a good teammate on the two teams she spent a total of eight seasons as a varsity starter.

“What I’ll remember most are the amazing times with all my teammates in both sports,” said Pryor, who will attend Villanova University in the fall where she plans to play club lacrosse. “I thought that in all four years we became more and more close as teammates both on and off the field, and the great relationships I’ve been able to build with my classmates and coaches.
“Winning championships is great, for sure, but enjoying my teammates and all we did in these four years is what I’ll always cherish!”

In the prep B final, Pryor contributed three assists while sophomore teammate Taylor Everson was on fire with five goals and two assists and seniors Claire Linaugh (three goals) and Megan Palmisano (two goals, one assist) and Reilly Hughes (13 saves in goal) also helped pave the way to a 10-goal onslaught in the second half as MKA stormed back from a 7-4 deficit to win the title.

Everson, who had 75 goals on the season following Thursday’s 4-goal output at New Providence in the North 2, Group 1 quarterfinal, is one of the stars of the present and future for MKA girls lacrosse.

Palmisano, lacrosse quad captain Ally Raff and Rylie Frieder join Pryor as four seniors who are members of both the girls soccer and lax squads for the Cougars.  

In addition to copping the prep B crown, MKA’s girls lacrosse team made history this spring reaching the program’s first-ever Essex County Tournament final and giving a spirited showing while dropping a hard-fought 12-9 decision to now 4-time defending champion and state-ranked Glen Ridge.

“We went into that game vs. Glen Ridge with the mindset, ‘Why not us?,” said Pryor, who has 32 goals, 18 assists, 52 draw controls and 33 ground balls. “We had nothing to lose being the underdog and we went out and played as hard as we could and left it all on the field. Yeah, we lost, but we played well and certainly had our moments in making it a close game throughout.”

A midfielder in lacrosse who along with Everson takes many of the draw controls and contributes any way she can, Pryor had one of her biggest games on the offensive end in the ECT semifinals vs. neighboring Montclair High when she scored five of her team’s goals, including the game-winner, in a spirited, come-from-behind 7-6 MKA victory.

“Lily’s ability to put the team on her back during tough games has always amazed me,” said Intrabartola. “She has been doing it since her freshmen year and just has this knack for stepping up and taking over the game when we need it most.

“In the Montclair game, I was so impressed with her composure and tenacity throughout that entire game, even though we were down until the last two minutes. She never put her head down and never stopped fighting. She scored 5 of our 7 goals that game, including the game winner.

“It’s rare for high school athletes to be confident and passionate enough to want and demand the ball when the game is on the line, but Lily has always been that player for us.” 
One of the key areas where Pryor was such a positive influence was as a senior leader and true representative of one very strong senior class that had great success in both lacrosse and soccer.

“Lily has been a major contributor to this program since her freshmen year, and she has just grown as a leader every year since,” continued Intrabartola. “Each year, she has stepped up more and more and has always led by example, working hard in all areas of the game and completely dominating the field, setting the standard and being an inspiration for the rest of her teammates. As she has gotten older and more experienced on the team, she has become a vocal leader as well- both on and off the field.

“As a senior captain, her leadership has played a major role in all of our success this season.”

The legacy that Pryor and her fellow seniors will leave behind will not be soon forgotten by those around the girls lacrosse program at MKA.

“Lily and her entire class have built this program into what it is today,” said the Cougars’ head girls lax mentor. “They have changed the culture to one with a winning mentality, and Lily is a major reason why. She has always led by example, and it’s difficult for her teammates not to step up and work their hardest when they see Lily setting the bar so incredibly high.”

The MKA girls lacrosse most valuable player as a junior when she earned All-Freedom South Division, All SEC-Liberty and All-Prep B first-team honors for a second straight season, Pryor has also been a captain in both her chosen sports this school year.

And, throughout it all, she has continued to be fast, agile and quite the versatile performer in both her high school sports.

“Lily was a jack of all trades for us,” said Welsh, who was the SEC girls soccer Coach of the Year in 2017. “She played in every area of the field and I’m sure would have gone in goal if we needed her to. I think many of the players followed Lily’s lead by example.

“She was always reliable for us in terms of being fit, working hard and having a competitive spirit. Because of her athleticism I often had her in the back for us, and I’m sure whatever offensive statistics would have been higher had that not happened.

“But, Lily always went wherever was needed most.”

Pryor’s junior season was a historic one for MKA girls soccer as the Cougars finished as co-champions in the NJSIAA Non-Public B state tournament, the Essex County Tournament and in the prep B tourney as well.

The state and county soccer titles were the first-ever for the Cougar girl booters.

“I specifically recall her performance in the post season run in 2017,” said Welsh. “She was on fire for us and was covering so much of the field.

Again, Lily’s athleticism helped us tremendously and her ability to defend and attack brought us such an advantage later in the season and later as games wore on.

“She just never seemed to get tired.”

And, just like was the case in lacrosse, the core senior group left its indelible mark on the girls soccer program with what they did in four years.

“I’m not sure I can put into words what this senior class has accomplished here at MKA,” said Welsh. “They have been great leaders and extremely competitive athletes and have consistently set the bar and then raised it each year.

“Best of all, their conduct both on and off the field during my time with them has been exemplary and for me that is what I’m most proud of.

“They have guided younger players, set an example both on the field and in the classroom, and provided such a positive environment during our seasons together.

“That is what makes it great! That bond and unity we had in soccer the past few
 years has been such a great thing to be a part of!”

And, the family atmosphere Pryor enjoyed with her teammates is reflected also in her own immediate family which has its own very strong MKA connection. Her mom, Sheila, is a second-grade teacher in the MKA primary school and her step-dad, Todd Smith, is MKA’s athletic director. Plus, her younger brother, Jake, is a freshman starting in goal for the Cougars’ boys lacrosse team. An older sister, Sarah, an MKA grad, is a student at Gettysburg College.

“Having my family as a big part of MKA has been great,” said Pryor. “It was an adjustment for me, but I love having my step dad in school and my little brother around as well.

“The biggest part of MKA is the family atmosphere that everyone promotes and having my extended family of friends and teachers plus my own family closely involved with the school has been part of a tremendous experience the past four years.”          

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MKA senior Lily Pryor (7, left) was a key member of the Cougars girls soccer team which shared both an Essex County Tournament title and an NJSIAA Non-Public B state crown in 2017. (Photo by Doug Allen)

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