CHATHAM, NJ - The Chatham boys lacrosse team seemed to be teetering on a tightrope throughout the 2015 season, trying to keep its balance during an uncharacteristic seven-game losing streak.
The Cougars regained their equilibrium in the postseason and reached the finals of both the Morris County Tournament and the Group 2 state sectional.
Chatham finished as the runnerup to Delbarton in sudden-death overtime in the MCT final and lost to Summit in the sectional final.
"Last year, we hit a rough patch, but showed a lot of maturity, a lot of fortitude," Chatham coach Tony Calandra said. "After losing a couple of close ones, we had to stop thinking about what people were saying about us and focus on the game."
The improved weather seems to have put Chatham ahead of schedule in preparation for its season opener, March 30 at home vs. Pequannock.
"This is the first time in three years that we haven't been shoveling snow to start the season," Calandra said. "It's a balanced team grade-wise and with numbers at every position. We have a nice mix in all three grades. It's a group that is focused. We have a really challenging scrimmage schedule. We have some time to get ready."
Chatham's attack will be missing left-handed shooting Will Barnett, who scored 50 goals and registered 93 points in his senior year. But two-thirds of the attack return with senior captains Austin Pierce (56 goals, 19 assists) and Matt Coleman (32 goals, 26 assists). They'll be joined by sophomore Mac Bredahl, fresh off a 28-2 season with the basketball team.
"He just does a lot of really good things," the coach said of Bredahl. "He has great speed, very good vision, very good hands. I think he'll be a nice complement to Pierce and Coleman."
Kevin Whiteman, Evan Gavalakis and Frank Anello are all in the mix on attack.
The midfield features senior captain Nate Carson (11 goals, 10 assists), Thomas Berger (27 goals, 19 assists) and Connor Byrd. Sophomore Ryan Decker will also play midfield.
Senior Justin Hayes and junior William Hosbein share the face-off duties for Chatham. Junior Timmy Adams and sophomore Jack Rooney, a standout guard on the basketball team, will play defensive middie.
"Adams is very athletic," Calandra said.
Senior captain Matt Nestler starts in goal and he will be well protected with defenders Kyle Kology, Pat Cosgrove, Georff O'Malley, Mark McNally and Will Sullivan, who attended Choate before transferring back to CHS. Sophomore Chris Conlin adds to the deep roster on defense.
Both Sullivan and Chris Franceso, a transfer from Delbarton, will have to sit for 10 games before they are eligible under the transfer rule.
"Our defense speaks for itself," Nestler said. "I have an army of great players in front of me. We're going to be a fast-paced team. We have a lot of talent across the field."
Junior Jack O'Neill and sophomore Ryan Ness are the other goalies on the roster.