The last time Montclair won an Essex County Tournament title in 2018 it had to be achieved via penalty kicks following a 0-0 tie through 100 minutes of soccer vs. ECT annual stronghold Seton Hall Prep.
Now, as the top seed in the 2023 ECT, the Mounties (8-0-3, 6-0-1 in the Super Essex Conference-American Division) are in that position due to a couple of nail-biters, both 3-2 victories over SHP (8-2, 5-2), in overtime, back on Sept. 15; and then in regulation at previously-undefeated Newark East Side (9-1, 5-1) this past Thursday (Sept. 28).
Coach Toure’ Weaver’s Montclair side, which clinched the SEC-American Division title with Tuesday's 1-0 win at Livingston, is sure to be hard-pressed in its pursuit of a 10th ECT championship with other strong teams including second-seeded SHP, third-seeded East Side and fourth-seeded West Orange (5-4-1, 2-3-1) among those in a formidable field.
Fifth-seeded Montclair Kimberley Academy (3-3-1, 2-2-1 in the SEC-Liberty) and sixth-seeded Livingston (6-3, 2-3) are others to watch in a top-heavy ECT field which was assembled during seeding meeting held Monday night at Science Park High School in Newark.
Two SEC-Liberty Division members, Newark Academy (6-3, 5-0) and Bloomfield (8-3, 5-1), are the No. 7 and 8 seeds respectively in the 29-team field. All top eight seeds receive a bye until the first round (see full bracket on Page 2).
The two preliminary rounds are scheduled for Friday, Oct. 6, and Monday, Oct. 9, with the first round scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 11, followed by the quarterfinals on Friday, Oct. 13, all at the higher-seeded team’s home field.
The semifinals are set for Wednesday, Oct. 17, 5 and 7 p.m., at Livingston, with the championship game set for 2 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 21, at Millburn, preceding the 4 p.m. ECT girls final.
Whether or not Montclair’s intended journey to an ECT title ultimately goes through SHP, the Final Four that precedes the title tilt promises to be a strong quartet.
Weaver certainly has respect for the Pirates and the rest of the field in the 2023 event.
“We have some terrific teams in our conference, some real heavyweights,” said the Mounties head mentor. “One thing that is certain is that you can’t take anyone lightly, or you’re going to be in big trouble.”
One of Montclair’s most impressive victories to date came last Thursday against East Side at Moraes Stadium in the Down Neck neighborhood of Newark when with just 20 seconds remaining junior defender Nnamedi Emehelu’s strong effort to get on the end of senior wing Tomer Salamon’s perfect service ended up with a collision between Emehelu and Red Raiders goalkeeper Rui Rosette, but not before Salamon’s ball wound up crossing the goal line for a 3-2 Mounties victory.
Montclair had led 2-0 early on with two nice goals. Junior forward Julian Cauvin sent one in off a corner kick that was flicked to the near post by senior Derek Lacey and landed at the foot of senior Gibby Adams who buried it for a 1-0 lead just 3:00 into the match.
The Mounties made it 2-0 in the first half after a long throw in by senior Alexander Abrahams was played by fellow senior Erol Gumus to Emehelu who kept the ball low, on frame and into the corner of the net.
Emehelu along with Jake Bernstein and fellow senior Rory Scanlon form a nice trio in the back; however, the Mounties 3-2-4-1 formula proved a bit vulnerable in the second half when East Side tied matters, 2-2; but Weaver then made a nice adjustment, moving senior Maxwell Mamorek to the back line for additional fortification and the defense held tight in the end before Salamon’s goal proved the ultimate difference.