The Montclair State field hockey team’s season is over. The Red Hawks lost the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Championship game to The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) this past Saturday, and were unable to defeat Saint Joseph’s College of Maine in the first round of the NCAA Division III Field Hockey Tournament on Wednesday.
“We had a very strong month of October performance,” Head Coach O’Reilly said prior to the game on Wednesday. “We lost one game in October. We beat two undefeated teams, we beat two regionally ranked teams, and we finished our season undefeated at home, so to draw a first round home game, you couldn’t ask for anything better for us.”
The Red Hawks had to wait for Selection Sunday for an at-large bid into the tournament. This came after losing the opportunity for an automatic bid because of their NJAC Championship loss. Much to the delight of the team, the Red Hawks were given home-field advantage in the first round game against Saint Joseph’s College of Maine. The first half was scoreless with Montclair maintaining the majority of the possession.
In the second half there was a clear momentum shift to the Saint Joseph Monks. The team pressured Montclair and forced costly turnovers. The Monks scored the only goal of the game in the 53rd minute. Freshman forward Libby Pomerleau got the ball off a rebound and hit a bullet into the inside right post. The Red Hawks fiercely attacked for the rest of the game after Saint Joseph’s put the ball in the goal, but it was not enough to score a goal to extend the game.
“You always learn more from losing than from winning in a game.” Senior forward Danielle Butrico said. “We learned to play until the last buzzer sounds no matter what the score is at the time.”
The Red Hawks were also scoreless in their loss against the TCNJ Lions on Saturday. A win would have allowed the team to capture its third NJAC championship. TCNJ was the top seed with Montclair coming in to the game as the second seed. The Red Hawks came in to the game on Saturday with a six game winning streak. Montclair had only two shots, with only one shot on goal causing any danger. With 20 minutes remaining in the game, TCNJ’s Cayla Andrews broke the scoreless tie to propel the Lions to the win.
“We played our best game ever this season and we just couldn’t get the ball into the cage,” Sophomore forward Amber Haslett said after Saturday’s game. “It was very frustrating to know that we have worked so hard over the past few months and have prepared for this game so much to not be able to score.”
The team has been talking about winning the NJAC Championship all season long. It was one of the team’s highest goals even before the season started. O’Reilly was confident in the capabilities of her team. They’ve battled all season long and were mentally focused coming into the championship game.
“While we didn’t get the result that we necessarily wanted, I think we made a lot of progress and I think we have a lot to learn from our performance,” O’Reilly said.
The Red hawks will have to wait until next season to put those learning experiences to the test. Montclair went 16-6 overall, including 15-4 in the regular season and 10-1 at home.