As a freshman, Noah Lin took over as the starting goalkeeper for the Montgomery High School boys’ lacrosse team late in the 2017 season and helped the Cougars win a Group 4 state championship.
Now, two years later, Lin is more experienced but still enjoying the same amount of success. The junior made eight saves in goal as the Cougars held off a challenge from Hunterdon Central Regional High School to win, 11-8, in the Group 4 state final last Friday night at Hopewell Valley Central High School.
The state title was the second in three years for Montgomery.
“We have a really strong core group of seniors,” said Lin, who made 10 saves on Monday night as Montgomery opened the state Tournament of Champions with a 13-9 victory over Moorestown. “All six of our seniors were on the 2017 state championship team. So they know what it is like to be here playing in June. Last year we had a couple new faces. But this year we brought back a lot of experience and having that strong senior core has helped us this season.”
In the victory over Hunterdon Central, the Cougars had built a 6-2 lead only to see the Red Devils rally and tie the score at 8-8 heading into the fourth quarter. But Montgomery held Hunterdon Central without a goal the rest of the way. Kyle Howard scored three times, while Dan Boyer and Alex Ipeker each scored twice.
The victory avenged a 6-5 loss from earlier in the season.
“We didn’t feel good about the first meeting,” Lin said. “We felt like there were mistakes we made and they got the better of us that game. Going into the game this time there was a lot at stake being a state championship game. We were eager to prove that we could win this time.”
The Cougars were certainly aided by their experience. They’ve played in county, sectional and state finals so they know what a big game feels like.
“Going into our Group 4 championship game it was nice to have been there before,” Lin said. “At the same time, every game is different. No game is ever the same. There was definitely some benefit in having been there before and dealing with the pressure. Being my third year, I’ve definitely enjoyed every bit of it. With our team there hasn’t been much complacency, even with the guys who have won state championships before.”
Lin has developed into one of the top goalies in the state over the last three years. He started the last 11 games of his freshman season and has been a stalwart in the cage ever since, although he is a more experienced player now than he was in his first state final.
“I guess it was similar in that I was playing in a state championship game,” Lin said. “But my role and the expectations put upon me definitely are different. As a freshman I was a a guy filling a role on a team that started eight seniors. I was expected to fill a role and was definitely thrown into the fire a little bit. This year my role is different in that it is my third year playing and I wasn’t one of the underclassmen thrown into it. It was a different experience.
“I feel like I remember it well. Things did move really quickly once I started playing. Looking back the upperclassmen really helped me get situated. This time around I like to think I am one of the more experienced players rather than the guy who is new.”
Montgomery opened the T of C with an impressive victory over Moorestown. The Cougars trailed, 3-1, after the first quarter and then took off from there. Max Drift scored four goals to lead the offense, while Howard and Ipeker scored three goals apiece.
“We are definitely clicking pretty well the last couple games,” Lin said. “I think after that first quarter we did a good job of settling in. We knew what we were capable of. Coach (Gil) Swenson, after that first quarter, he said it was over and now we have to move forward and we definitely picked it up after that.”
The Cougars were scheduled to face top-seeded Delbarton in the T of C semifinals on Thursday night at Kean University. The game was originally scheduled for Wednesday but moved back a day due to weather concerns.
“At this time of year it is always super fun,” Lin said. “Part of winning each game is knowing you are getting another two or three days with your team. I love my team. So getting a win is really cool and then getting another two or three days with this group of guys.”