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MKA, which is one of the top teams to watch in the NJSIAA Non-Public Group B state tournament field as it looks to defend its 2023 title, has won state prep B-Division tournament championship for second straight season with Wednesday's 18-9 victory vs. Princeton Day School. Among those leading way were Aeryn Curren (5), Maddie Polanskyj (2), Bebe Scuorzo (6) and goalie Orly Sedransk (50). The Cougars could celebrate their prep B title and also take time to assemble for the customary team championship photo. (Photos by Gene Nann - genenann.smugmug.com)

Prep B Champ MKA Eyes Defense
Of NJSIAA Non-Public B Crown

By Steve Tober
for sidelinechatter.com

MONTCLAIR- With a second straight prep B tournament championship in tow following a decisive 18-9 victory over Princeton Day School last Wednesday, May 22, at Van Brunt Field, a red-hot Montclair Kimberley Academy now has its sights now set on defending its NJSIAA Non-Public, Group B state title.

"It's great to see the team win back to back Prep B championships," said MKA veteran coach Chelsea Goss. "Our team is really starting to click and play some of our best lacrosse, and a prep B championship will give us the momentum we need to make another run in the states." 

The top-seeded Cougar laxladies (18-2) rode a high-octane offense combined with one of their best defensive efforts of the season vs. second-seeded PDS in the prep B final as Davidson College-bound senior midfielder Aeryn Curren (team-leading 73 goals) led the way with four goals and four assists in an all-around tremendous effort.

"Our defense has really stepped up in the last few games and has started playing cohesively as a unit," continued Goss. "We have also seen a lot of growth in play and confidence from our freshmen, and more people are stepping up and contributing." 

Sophomore Shea Murphy was her team’s top goal scorer vs. PDS with five goals, while freshman Bebe Scuorzo added four goals and Shea’s twin sister Maggie added three.

Penn-bound, veteran senior all-state goalie Orly Sedransk anchored the defense for MKA in its superlative all-around effort against the talented Mercer County team (15-5).

The Cougars receive consistent contributions and strong leadership from senior tri-captains Curren, Sedransk and University of Chicago-bound defender Ava Moore.

"We can definitely breathe a little easier knowing we have veterans like Orly, Aeryn, and Ava to lead the way.," said Goss "Our whole senior class has played in big games before and has been on both the winning and losing end of it, so they know what it takes to bring our team to that championship game.

"We definitely have all of the pieces, we just need to keep believing in ourselves and working hard for our goals."

Against PDS that strong belief in themselves help translate into a solid second half for the Cougars.

Holding an 8-5 lead at the half MKA exploded for three straight goals to start the third quarter. Scuorzo and Maggie Murphy each scored to help the Montclair private school extend its lead to 13-7 heading into the fourth quarter as the Cougars were in firm control.

MKA is the No. 2 seed behind Holy Spirit in the Non-Public, Group B tourney where the two finalists from last year’s championship game appear destined to meet once again in the title tilt which would be held 1 p.m., Thursday, June 6, at Kean University’s Alumni Field.

In this Thursday's (May 30) quarterfinals the Cougasrs entertain seventh-seeded Morristown-Beard.

A possible semifinal opponent for MKA on Monday, June 3, could be third-seeded Bishop Eustace which appears to be the next team to watch in the Non-Public, Group B tourney field.

In this past Thursday's (May 23) opening round games in the NJSIAA tourney, MKA roared past Ranney, 12-1, and PDS bounced back nicely to eliminate Newark Academy, 19-7.

Looking at the season to date, it’s been a nice, gradual rise toward a very high quality of play for the Cougars who really have nice balance with several scorers to turn to in addition to the ever-present Curren.

“Passing is something we’ve been working on and it’s nice to see us executing those passes better and better as we move along,” said Goss. "What’s nice about this team is that we’re balanced and it’s not just one person who has to do everything.

“People feel comfortable stepping up to play their role, whatever that is, and we continue to learn how to feed off each other’s strengths while also taking risks on offense; and it’s paying off for us!”

Lending testament to the Cougars’ balanced scoring attack, in addition to Curren (73 goals, 31 assists, 88 draw controls, 41 ground balls) others adding to the point production and all-around efforts include Shea Murphy (38 goals, 21 assists, 42 draw controls), Maggie Murphy (36 goals, 17 assists, 33 draw controls), Scuorzo (34 goals, 15 assists, team-leading 42 ground balls, 67 draw controls) and senior Maddie Polanskyj (26 goals, 9 assists).  

Defensively, there is a cohesive foursome who do their work in front of Sedransk (135 saves, 118 goals against). The solid unit of resistence helps make the Cougars perhaps an even stronger overall squad than last year unit that finished a solid 16-7 on the season and culminated a brilliant state tourney run with a 14-8 win over Holy Spirit in the 2023 Non-Public, Group B final at Hunterdon Central.

“Our defense has done a really good job stepping up our game on the first slide and that comes through communicating,” said Moore, who is a very reliable backbone of the defensive unit. “We have really good energy, we know how to work with each other and that translates out on the field.

“We are very aggressive and that contributes to our quick slides and being able to shut down the opposing team.”

Moore works alongside other starting defenders including juniors Ciara Branigan and Deborah Giddins along with freshman Caroline Cuneo to form a sturdy group in front of Sedransk, the outstanding future Penn Quaker.

“Our defense is a 100 % step up from last year, our first slides are there and when our second slides are working our ‘D’ really comes together out there,” added Sedransk. “We are very determined to win another state championship.”   

NJSIAA Non-Public, Group B state tournament:
Quarterfinals, Thursday, May 30:
(8) Our Lady of Mercy at (1) Holy Spirit
(5) Princeton Day School at (4) Saddle River Day
(6) DePaul at (3) Bishop Eustace
(7) Morristown-Beard at (2) MKA
 
Group semis, Monday, June 3; final, 1 p.m., Thursday, June 6, at Kean 

Follow Steve Tober on 'X' (formerly Twitter) @Chattermeister

Sophomore twin sisters Shea (22) and Maggie Murphy (10) along with veteran Davidson College-bound senior Aeryn Curren (5) are among the players to watch for defending Non-Public, Group B state champ MKA.

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