MOUNTAIN LAKES _ Kimmi Klingener and Rowan Menard had a primo vantage point for one of the most significant games ever played on the turf at Wilkins Field.
Klingener and Menard, both freshman lacrosse players for Mountain Lakes High School, stood on the track, just behind the Ohio State University bench. The action - the Buckeyes versus USC in a Division I women's lacrosse game - was yards away. The duo chased down balls while paying close attention to the events on the field.
"This has been a good experience," Klingener said. "I'm glad I got to watch. The passing, the transitioning... They're so good. The ball moves so, so quickly."
Menard thought "it was really cool" to have a matchup of this caliber in Mountain Lakes, especially because the ninth-ranked Trojans, 16-7 victors over Ohio State on Sunday, March 26, were coached by Lindsey Munday, who once proudly wore the orange and blue as a three-sport standout.
"No one holds the ball for long," Menard noted. "It goes fast... There were a lot of people here. Lacrosse teams and fans from many towns."
The game, which came about because the two teams visited the Northeast for games on Friday and the head coaches have ties to the tri-state area, drew 2,552 fans. High school girls teams and players came out en masse wearing varsity jackets and sweatshirts. Among those represented were Montville, Randolph, Roxbury, West Morris, Morris Hills, Mount Olive, Pequannock, Vernon, Montclair, West Essex and Governor Livingston.
Seeing so many enthusiastic fans, a number of which tailgated in the parking lots, touched Munday, a 2002 graduate of Mountain Lakes High School, who went on to star at Northwestern University, a two-time national champion, and earn a spot on the 2009 United States National Team.
"This is just great," said Munday, in her fifth season at the helm of USC. "It's good to be back in Mountain Lakes, to be home and playing at this venue. There were tons of fans and much support from the New Jersey lacrosse community. It was a terrific day."
On Saturday night, Munday and her family, friends and team had dinner at The Station in town, taking up the restaurant's entire downstairs room, after practice. Prior to the USC-Ohio State tilt, a tri-scrimmage featuring Mountain Lakes, West Essex and Yorktown Heights of New York, alma mater of Buckeyes coach Alexis Venechanos, took place.
Senior attacker Michaela Michael paced the Trojans with six goals and Kylie Drexel and Gabby McMahon had hat tricks. Michael, impressed by the locker rooms at Mountain Lakes, was happy for her coach and could tell that she enjoyed her homecoming.
"It was neat," Michael said. "Lindsey liked being back at her old stomping grounds. It was special. There were so many high school kids here and plenty of USC fans. We're not used to this on the East Coast."
Jen Munday Topakas, the Lakers girls coach, was on hand for the weekend's events and brought her two young daughters to the practice.
"I love that Lindsey is home," Munday Topakas said. "There were a lot of people her but the youth players are most important. We need to grow the game. They got to see top talent today. Hopefully, that will be an inspiration. Morris County and North Jersey are hotbeds of lacrosse. Some of these kids may play at that level. To be up close is awesome.
"Lindsey has quite a reputation as a lacrosse coach. She's one of the best. And I'm not just saying that because she's my sister."
Lakers athletic director James Smith had a busy week preparing for the game but it was all worth it.
"It was work but good work," Smith said. "This was exciting. The fact that so kids showed up... People got in touch with us from 25 or more towns. It wasn't just Morris County teams. They were from all over. This was a great way to promote the sport."
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