In one of the most challenging seasons in program history, the Montclair State University women’s lacrosse team exceeded everyone’s expectations.
The Red Hawks finished the season at 8-1 with the only loss coming from The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Championship game.
There should be no shame in losing to TCNJ. Over the last decade, the Lions have dominated the NJAC, winning the conference championship 10 consecutive times. To call the program a dynasty is a massive understatement.
Although the NJAC trophy was not brought home, Montclair State still had some tremendous moments. Perhaps the most notable one was actually beating TCNJ on April 3 for the first time in school history. The Red Hawks won by a score of 10-9 and ended a 22-game losing streak to the Lions.
Red Hawks senior attacker Rhiannon Brown described her experience beating TCNJ.
“I have never been so excited and so proud of a team in my entire life and I personally didn’t even play in that game,” Brown said. “It really was the best feeling in the entire world to be able to do that, especially on our home field.”
It was a complete team performance, with senior goalkeeper Allyn Lilien leading the way by tying the school record with 25 saves. It was a number that has been untouched since 1981. The win over TCNJ led to the Red Hawks being ranked in the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA) Coaches Poll for the first time since 2012.
“I think that was one of our top accomplishments of the season, just being recognized by the IWLCA and the U.S. Women’s Lacrosse magazine meant a lot,” Brown said.
In a win against Kean University on April 13, senior midfielder Brittany Costigan broke the school’s record for most draw controls of all time. Costigan broke Kailee Beal’s mark of 321 that was set between the 2010-2013 seasons.
This roster was deep and loaded with talent as five different Red Hawks earned NJAC all-conference honors. Costigan won NJAC Midfielder of the Year, senior defender Meghan Gorman won Defensive Player of the Year and Lilien won Goalkeeper of the Year. Senior captain/attacker Megan Mahlstadt and junior midfielder Tristin Konen were named to the First Team as well.
To top all of that off, head coach Nicol Parcelluzzi was named Coach of the Year.
Konen led the team in goals with 32. Mahlstadt followed closely behind with 25 of her own and the senior also tallied 22 assists. Mahlstadt certainly was the engine for the team and a lot of the Red Hawks’ success stemmed from her.
As a collective unit, the Red Hawks were a problem on the offensive end. Montclair State ranked second in the conference in goals per game with 14.5 and they also finished first in the conference in assists per game with 7.8.
Years from now, players will look back at this season as a major success, which it was. However, it was not so great toward the beginning. At the start of the season, the chemistry was off and the team had a break due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. When they returned there still seemed to be a disconnect.
“Our captains pulled us together on a Zoom call and we all talked to each other about how we felt,” junior midfielder Amber Gonzalez said. “Maybe someone wasn’t working as hard as another and like we were just walking to the ball. After that, we came together and honestly played so much better,”
Sometimes teams need a fallout in order to play at a higher level and that is exactly what happened. Captains Mahlstadt and Costigan were true leaders throughout the season. If that Zoom call was never established, who knows how the season would have gone.
Lifting up the NJAC Championship trophy and moving on to the Division III NCAA tournament was the larger goal, but the Red Hawks had a phenomenal season and have nothing to be ashamed of. Montclair State should be right back in the mix of things next season as they look to claim their first NJAC Championship in 2022.