On the surface, it was a victory celebration for the Montclair State men’s lacrosse team. Underneath, it meant so much more.
On April 30, the team captured its third straight Skyline Conference Championship as the Red Hawks defeated Farmingdale State, 9-7, and earned a berth to the NCAA Division III Men’s Lacrosse Championship. As the final horn sounded, the team erupted in celebration, equipment strewn everywhere as players and coaches reveled in the victory of the game and the memory of the coach they lost too soon.
For the entire season, the Red Hawks “played 2011 for John Greco,” their head coach who passed away suddenly on November 4, 2010 at the age of 33. Greco ’00 had turned Montclair State into one of the top teams in the region and led the Red Hawks to back-to-back Skyline crowns while producing the greatest season in school history in 2010, when his team went 15-4. A former Montclair State lacrosse player, Greco spent eight seasons as the head coach, compiling a record of 96-44, a 43-10 mark in conference play, including a 23-2 ledger in the Skyline Conference since 2007.
"This was the toughest thing we ever had to go through," said Montclair State junior Tyler Meth. "When I transferred [from Lynchburg as a freshman] he was like a second father to me."
The team wore “Playing 2011 for John Greco” bracelets throughout the season and hoped to honor their coach with another run toward a Skyline Championship and an NCAA berth. Greco’s former teammate and assistant coach, Adam Torrisi ’00, took over the team and wore Greco’s cap to honor his best friend.
The season got off to a rough start at 3-6, with four losses coming to teams ranked in the Top 10 in the nation. The sixth loss came at the hands of Farmingdale, whose three-goal win on April 6 snapped Montclair’s 17-game Skyline regular-season unbeaten streak. The Red Hawks responded with five consecutive wins (all in the conference) to close out the regular season and then won a tight 4-3 contest against New York Maritime College in the tournament semifinals to set up the rematch with Farmingdale.
After falling behind early in the title game, Montclair State used a three-goal run in the second quarter to take a 6-5 lead at halftime. The Red Hawks would maintain that advantage throughout the second half as Meth, who was named the Most Valuable Player of the Tournament, scored the last of his three goals.
The Red Hawks accepted the Skyline Championship trophy, then walked over to the cheering section to present it to Greco’s wife, Karen. "It was a really important day for us," said Meth. "Going through the whole thing, it helped us become better people."