WEST ORANGE, NJ - Chatham boys lacrosse observers might see the 8-7 loss to Seton Hall Prep on Tuesday as a step backward, especially since the Cougars were just three days off its upset win over Delbarton, ranked No. 1 in the state at the time.
But Chatham senior Ryan Chase and coach Tony Calandra expressed the view that it was a glass-half-full situation for their team after the game played at Brendan Tevlin Field.
"We did not take a step back today," Chase said. "In fact, I think we took a step forward despite the result. We're continuing to build as a team, playing better and getting closer to reaching that potential that we know we have.
"We lost, but the way we played was as a team and we had that energy we were lacking at the beginning of the season. We've been building and building up to that win against Delbarton. I see really good things in the future for this team."
Chatham (6-5) never had the lead in this game as Seton Hall Prep (9-1) moved to a 4-0 lead early in the second quarter and held a 5-2 advantage at the break. But the Cougars fought its way up the hill to stand even at 7-7 with the Prep by netting three consecutive goals in the fourth quarter.
Ryan Decker ignited the run by putting away a pass from Mac Bredahl with 7:10 left in the fourth. After Chatham goalie Ryan Ness made a big save at the other end, Chase made a downhill run (see below) to score a goal that sliced the deficit to 7-6 with 6:14 showing.
Colin Hart won the ensuing faceoff for the Cougars, preceding a man-up situation that Chatham took advantage of when Chase converted a pass from Connor Byrd, tying the game at 7-7 with 4:16 left in regulation.
But the climb back to an even score lasted all of eight seconds as Jack Sarson scored off the faceoff to give the Prep an 8-7 edge.
Chatham turned the ball over on what seemed like its last chance to tie with 39 seconds left. But the Cougars managed to get the ball back when, after a timeout, goalie Ness was moved into the attack to allow Chatham seven defenders. Seton Hall took a shot at the unprotected goal and Cougar senior Colin Pierce dove to block the ball.
Initially, Pierce was whistled for being in the crease and the ball was going to go to be Seton Hall's possession. A week earlier, a discussion by the referees in overtime and turned against Chatham in an 8-7 loss at Westfield. This time, the referee conference turned in Chatham's favor.
It was explained afterward by the referee that Pierce had not been in the crease when the shot was taken, but had gone into the crease making the stop. That was a legal play under the rules and Chatham received possession with 25 seconds to go. A final shot by Chase on the last play of the game was inches away from tying it (see below).
"I didn't see the goal, but I knew Mac (Bredahl) was going to get it to me and as soon as I caught it, I turned and shot," Chase said. "It missed by a little bit."
Mac Bredahl's shot was blocked by the goalie, but Connor Byrd picked up the ground ball and scored in the second quarter
Ryan Decker's man-up goal in the third quarter sliced the Chatham deficit to 6-4
"You know what, we didn't get off to the best start, we jumped into the zone and we thought we settled down defensively," Calandra said. "We kept battling. This is a game that will pay dividends for us down the road.
"We continued to come back and played with a lot of heart. We did what we needed to do and we got a shot at the end. They had the ball with 25 seconds to go and we got a shot to tie the game that missed by a couple of inches."