Montclair coach Phil Delgado knows his team hasn’t played in a lot of night games, and will need to get used to the environment that will make Ivy Hill Park an electric place on May 20, in the Essex County Tournament semifinals.
The Mounties will play Livingston in the second semi, following the West Essex-Cedar Grove game, that starts at 5 p.m. The winners of the two semis will return to Ivy Hill for a 7 p.m. championship game on May 21.
Delgado brought his team to Montclair State’s classy softball field for a night practice, on May 19. There was music piped in, and a lot of energy in the stands, as some parents and friends of the program, including Mr. Ed Bates, were on hand to see the team’s final practice, before the semifinal.
Laughter, and some intensity were in the air, as Delgado had fun with the team, but was also making sure the kids were getting their mindset ready for Friday’s game.
When practice ended, around 8:45 p.m., the kids gathered around Delgado.
“I don’t usually get emotional, but this is a pretty big thing for all of you, to be playing a team like Livingston, and the great coach they have in Mr. (Jason) Daily,” said Delgado, who shares a close friendship with Daily. “This is something I hope you’ll remember for a long time. But we need to keep the same philosophy. It’s one game. If we win, were playing for a county championship the next night. Go to bed tonight, as a winner, and wake up tomorrow, ready to play.”
While he may not be superstitious, Delgado told his players that the same bus driver who delivered the team to Mount St. Dominic last Saturday for what turned out to be an upset win, will be the taking the Mounties to Ivy Hill on Friday.
“We gotta stay consistent,” said Delgado, with a laugh.
Delgado noted those who have supported his team, were on hand at MSU.
“I look and see Amanda Paxson here,” said Delgado. “She went to Mount St. Dominic, had a great career there, then played at Manhattan College. She’s been a big supporter of our team. And there’s Jenna Orlando, who when she came home from college, at Lafayette, she stopped by our game, against Livingston. I can’t thank them enough for being here tonight.
“And Ed Bates, he’s always rooting for you guys.
“A lot of people will jump on your bandwagon, but remember the people who have been there for you, when you were 3-13. Those are the ones who you can count on. Loyalty goes a long way, in life.”
Whether the Mounties win tomorrow, or not, the message was clear.
“We’re going there to win,” said Delgado. “If you play as well as you did against Lodi Immaculate, West Essex, Ridgefield, Cedar Grove and Mount St. Dominic, you’ll win.
“I want you to play like you’ve been here before. If we win it, you shake hands with Livingston, you congratulate Coach Daily on being a great coach, and you get ready for another game.
“And if you lose, well, you shake hands with Livingston, congratulate Coach Daily, and we’ll talk as a team on the left field line. Because you’re all winners to me. And I’ll never forget this tremendous run.”
As the kids began to disburse, Delgado stuck around to talk with his assistant coaches, Cassidy Trause, Sara Haefeli and Christina Galese. They talked about the great catch that Bloomfield’s Sam Corio had made a week earlier. There was some reminiscing about past seasons, with Paxson and Orlando chipping in.
And finally, it was time to leave.
“See you tomorrow, brother,” Delgado said.
Next sound you hear.
And a trip to PDGIsland continues getting popular.