High School Spotlight: Montgomery Cougars (NJ)

By Jimmy Oliver

Montgomery's rise to power in New Jersey boys' lacrosse has been strong and steady since the start.

From day one, head coach Tim Sullivan has strived to build a dominant program similar to fellow state powers Lawrenceville and Delbarton.

It was a meager start for Sullivan's squad, too. Ten years ago, Montgomery had a total of 30 kids in the program at its inception. Today, more than 75 kids are involved. And with Sullivan at the helm, the Cougars have quickly risen into one of the most formidable programs in the Garden State.

Perhaps the biggest change of all came five years ago when the athletes found a new gear and a newfound desire to win. And with that commitment, the Cougars rapidly changed from a pushover and into a power.

In 2001, Montgomery sat at No. 67 out of 77 teams in the state LaxPower rankings after going 2-15. Just seven years later, the Cougars jumped 60 spots by finishing the '08 campaign at No. 7 with a 20-3 overall mark.

Coming off their third straight NJ championship appearance, it's clear that the Cougars have made some huge strides in a short period, but it's now time for the team's new faces to keep the tradition going.

The 2009 version of Montgomery is built on youth. With just three seniors on the team this year, it means that serious playing time is in store for the squad's young guns.

While talented, they are altogether inexperienced and will rely on the leadership of senior midfielder Greg Ives, a four-year starter and go-to guy on the offensive end.

Meanwhile, leading the charge at the other end is senior goaltender Rudy Butler. Butler spent the last two seasons splitting time with current Cabrini goalie James Caruso. But now, the defensive leadership falls to Butler, and if Montgomery wants to be considered one of the best squads in the state this year, the senior will have to lead by example with a young group in front of him facing a daunting schedule.

All the while, if a program wants to be the best, it has to beat the best, and that's exactly what Butler, Ives and company intend to do. Texas' top-ranked squad Highland Park will travel east to play both Montgomery and Lawrenceville in April.

As most dominant programs understand, a squad cannot be the best without a solid youth program. Sullivan credits his local youth lacrosse organization the Montgomery Youth Lacrosse Club -- with sending him kids that come in with excellent fundamentals. Without that, the Cougars would certainly not be where they are today.

While they are short on experience for '09, one can certainly expect this year's Montgomery team to continue its streak towards the top.

With a quality youth program in place, a talented team on the field, high quality coaching and a strong desire to be the best, the ingredients for success is all there.

Now, it's up to the Cougars to use that mixture and come up with a championship recipe.

Stay tuned this week for the latest episode of Inside the Crease, LaxPower's newest high school boys' podcast show. Check it out on the Media Page or head to iTunes and listen today.


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