For the past three seasons, the Montclair State University football team had been stuck in a state of mediocrity. They were essentially bottom feeders in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC), which had gotten stronger in recent years.
That all changed this season, when Montclair State raised several eyebrows as they finished with an 8-2 record, 7-2 in conference play and finishing third in the NJAC.
Montclair State opened up the season with five straight victories. One of those victories included a huge 17-15 overtime win against Christopher Newport University.
The Red Hawks dreams of winning a conference championship were dashed with two heartbreaking losses to Salisbury and the eventual NJAC champions Frostburg State. However, the Red Hawks would end the season with three straight victories, including a 10-9 victory over Wesley College.
The Red Hawks had many standout athletes as they placed nine players on the all-conference team. One player who particularly stood out was NJAC Defensive Player of the Year, senior linebacker Mauro Altamura, who finished the year with a jaw-dropping stat-line of 92 tackles as well as four sacks.
Montclair State will have much higher expectations next season as they return several starters such as sophomore quarterback Ja’Quill Burch, junior wide receiver/returner Kason Campbell and junior safety Jaier Garrett to lead the team next season. The team will graduate a class of 11 this year.
The Montclair State men’s basketball team started off extremely hot at the beginning of the season, but fell off towards the end of the season as they finished with a 17-10 record and 11-7 record in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC).
The Red Hawks kicked off their season winning eight of their first nine games. This hot start included a huge 95-75 upset victory over Final Four finalist Ramapo College on Nov. 28.
However, Montclair State would go 9-9 for the last 18 games of the season as they lost several key conference games. Those losses ended up dropping them from first in the NJAC before January, to the fourth seed in the conference tournament by the end of the regular season.
Montclair State made a buzzer-beater shot from sophomore guard Myles Mitchell-White to defeat The College of New Jersey in the first round of the NJAC tournament, 66-63. However, the Red Hawks could not take advantage of the momentum gained from the thrilling victory, and they would lose in the second round to the eventual NJAC champions Rowan University 95-86.
Despite their trials, there are plenty of reasons to believe the Red Hawks will be contenders again next season for the conference title. Although the team graduates standout forward/center Jordan Robertson, the all-conference scoring duo of junior guard Akbar Hoffman and sophomore guard Mitchell-White will be back.
The women’s basketball team had ambitions to win their seventh straight conference championship this season, and were under tremendous pressure to do so, given the graduation losses of stars Katie Sire, Taylor Harmon and Katie Tobie.
It appeared that Montclair State was up to the challenge, as they began the season 9-2 and looked to be on their way to another conference title.
Unfortunately, the Red Hawks would go 6-8 in the last 14 games of the season as they struggled against many of their conference opponents during this stretch. On the flip side, Red Hawks would still manage to have the third seed coming into the NJAC tournament.
These struggles would continue in the NJAC tournament as the sixth-seeded Kean Cougars stunned the Montclair State Red Hawks in the first round, beating them 72-67. This would end the Red Hawks’ streak of six consecutive conference championships and national tournament appearances.
Junior forward Alex McKinnon, a major contributor to the Red Hawks for the past few seasons, was a named to NJAC second team as she averaged 12.7 points per game. Sophomore guard Kim Calloway also had a breakout season averaging 9.5 points per game, and was tabbed to the NJAC Honorable Mention.
Despite the loss of senior captain and forward Domonique Wirsing, a major staple of the Red Hawks’ last three NJAC championships runs, the team does return McKinnon and Calloway, who will play major roles next season. Other key returnees include sophomore guard Taylor Brown and freshman guard Julia Sutton.