CHATHAM, NJ - It was the Noelle Bessette show at Haas Field on Friday afternoon as the senior scored three goals and assisted on another to propel Chatham to a 5-0 win over Wayne Hills in the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 1, Group 3 state tournament quarterfinals.
Midfielder Bessette, who is set to play at Rutgers next season, got the scoring started just under six minutes into the match. Off a corner, Bessette gathered the ball and fired it in the back of the net to give Chatham an early 1-0 lead.
“Noelle is one of those key players that I’m very lucky, as a coach, to have,” Chatham coach Kaitlin Leyden said. “People look up to her and want to imitate how she plays.”
Bessette put on a clinic with the ball all day long, toying with the defense at times with skillful moves.
She would find the net again with 24:36 left in the second half, as Chatham was awarded a penalty stroke.
Bessette stepped up and fired it in the top left corner, giving Chatham a 2-0 lead.
Seven minutes later, Bessette would get into the assist column, as she fired from long distance and
Chatham scored on a deflection from Annie Leverich to give the Lady Cougars a 3-0 lead.
Bessette would complete the hat trick just six minutes later, dancing around the defense and firing a
rocket into the back of the net from about 10 yards away to make it a 4-0 lead. Chatham would score
once more off a corner as time expired, as senior Charlotte Buckman set up Liza Heyl's goal for the fifth tally.
Leyden expressed her happiness with the win, citing a mantra she has vocalized all season long
about playing together as a team.
“I think they played collectively as a team and not individuals,” Leyden said. “They were very
aggressive, they went to the ball, their passing was on point, and you could tell that they really wanted
One of the most important parts of this team has been the senior leadership. All five captains are
seniors, and they were integral in motivating the team to victory.
“The seniors were key, all 11 of them,” Leyden said. They didn’t want their season to end.”
Chatham’s next matchup will be in the semifinals against West Morris, a team they recently fell to by a
score of 5-0. Leyden acknowledged the need for adjustments and a different game plan heading
into the match.
“We were a little taken back by the grass because we’re used to the turf,” the coach said about the
playing surface at West Morris. “Our biggest asset is our speed, and on grass, it kind of takes it away.
We’re going to plan to play on grass and to change our game so we don’t use speed as our only
strength. We’ll use other strengths too.”