When Julian Montilus came into Mendham’s locker room on Sept. 26, head coach Russ Raffay wasn’t entirely sure what to say. Montilus’ mother, Joanne Jacques-Montilus, had passed away from complications of breast cancer the day before.
Though the Minutemen had heard she was sick, Raffay said, “We thought she was doing well, that she was kicking it.” After a late-night text from another team parent with the bad news, Raffay didn’t even expect to see Julian Montilus that morning.
Raffay asked, “Do you want to play?” Montilus said yes, and, Raffay said, “He hasn’t stopped playing since.”
Montilus scored the game winner against Ridge that morning, and has four more game-winning goals in the eight matches since his mother’s death. He is the only one to score against Delbarton this fall.
“I feel a little more confident, like I have a little more strength,” said Montilus, who has nine goals and two assists. “Every time I score, I look up and think of my mom. When I play, I think my mom’s watching, and I get a little strength.”
Montilus hadn’t told many people at Mendham about his mom’s diagnosis last November, and kept her treatment pretty quiet. Raffay told the Minutemen, “Soccer is more than just a sport sometimes, and this is one of those times.”
Mendham (9-3-1) held Senior Appreciation Night after its 2-0 defeat of Dover in a Morris County Tournament quarterfinal on Sunday. Pascal Montilus, Julian’s father, wasn’t able to attend, so the 19 other Minutemen seniors crowded into Julian’s senior photo.
“I wake up every morning and I don’t have a mom,” said Julian Montilus, whose older brother Malcolm is a sophomore at NYU, and younger twin sisters, Fiona and Gabby, are 9 years old.
“It always affects me when I wake up. Nothing has changed during the day. … I was sad about it, but I try and stay positive, because I know my mom would want me to stay positive.”
The Mendham soccer program is selling pink T-shirts to benefit Friend 2 Friend, a free digital mammography program organized by the nonprofit Sussex County Women’s Forum. The shirt has “Mendham” in large white letters over a soccer ball and the words “kicking cancer.” In the center is a pink ribbon, with JJM encircled by angel’s wings in one corner.
SCWF strives to provide digital mammography and breast ultrasounds for local women, and to be a resource and support system for families impacted by breast cancer diagnoses.
“It’s a drop in the bucket, but one day, one of the drops is going to cure cancer,” Raffay said. “We’re playing for Julian, and Julian is playing for his mom. He honored her, and continues to honor her.”
MCT semis at a glance
The last two undefeated teams in Morris County are still alive in the Morris County Tournament. But top-seeded Delbarton and No. 2 Mount Olive won’t face each other Sunday. Will that much-anticipated match happen in the MCT final? Not if Mendham or Randolph have anything to say about it.
The boys semifinal doubleheader will be at Wilkins Field in Mountain Lakes.
Randolph vs. Mount Olive, noon
Which Rams team will show up? The lockdown defense, or the scrappers who had to go to overtime against Parsippany in their quarterfinal? Senior Mateo Panizza (7g, 4a) still leads No. 3 Randolph’s offense, though his former strike-force partner Rodrigo Avila seems to be heating up. Mount Olive goalkeeper Tim Watral set the school record for shutouts two weeks ago, and just keeps adding to his total. The Marauders have given up just one goal, to Morris Hills midfielder Michael Creighton in a 4-1 win on Sept. 21.
Delbarton vs. Mendham, 2 p.m.
The defending champion Green Wave have given up just one goal this fall, to Mendham senior Julian Montilus. But Delbarton won that game, as well as an earlier NJAC-United match — outscoring the Minutemen, 8-1. The Green Wave’s goalkeeping duo of Santiago Robertson-Lavalle and Matt Campbell have 12 shutouts in 13 matches. If Mendham can find the scoreboard, can Delbarton respond?
Clothes for a cause
Morris Hills gathered a huge pile of overstuffed trash bags on Saturday morning: clothes, shoes and stuffed animals to donate to Flanders-based Millennium Textiles. The booster club tallied 1,977 pounds of unwanted items — 125 bags total — and received 20 cents per pound.
The Scarlet Knights topped last year’s total, raising $395.40. The donations will be distributed to those less fortunate.