CHATHAM, NJ - Chatham coach Tony Calandra stated the obvious after his Cougar team defeated Mahwah, 13-1, in the NJSIAA North Jersey, Group 2 boys lacrosse quarterfinals on Tuesday at Cougar Field.
"You win 85 percent of your face-offs and hold a team to one goal, you're going to win a lot of games," Calandra said. "Right now we're built on winning face-offs and playing good defense. Survive and advance. That's what the state tournament is about."
The dominant performance against Mahwah (7-11) put No. 3 seed Chatham (13-9) one victory away from a likely meeting with top-seeded Summit in the sectional final on Saturday.
The one team standing in the Cougars' way is No. 2 seed Sparta (15-2), which will be the home team Thursday when Chatham visits for a sectional semifinal matchup.
"You don't want to overlook Sparta, but Summit is definitely in our vision," Chatham attackman Will Barnett, who had four goals and three assists, said. "We're pushing to get to that sectional final. We're looking to put together everything we've done the last few weeks and capitalize on our chances and hopefully, beat Summit. Sparta is explosive and we can't overlook them. We have to go up there and take care of business."
The offense was efficient enough against Mahwah, with Barnett and Austin Pierce notching four goals apiece, Thomas Berger producing two goals and an assist and Evan Bernard scoring twice.
But it was the defense and the face-off ability of junior Justin Hayes that put Chatham one victory away from its goal of a matchup with Summit.
"Hayes has been amazing for us," Barnett said. "He won 7 of 8 face-offs in the county championship against Delbarton and that allowed us to take a 5-2 lead in the first half. He's giving us a lot more possessions."
Hayes won 11 of 14 face-offs against Mahwah, including six of the first seven when the Cougars moved to a 7-0 lead before halftime.
"He's been dynamite for us," Calandra said.
Bernard's high blast from up top staked Chatham to a 1-0 lead before Pierce cut to the net and finished a pass from behind by Barnett to make it 2-0 with 1:19 left in the first quarter.
Berger opened the second quarter with a goal off a feed from Barnett. Hayes then won the face-off, leading to Barnett's goal on a pass from behind by Matt Coleman (3 assists). Another Hayes face-off led to a Pierce goal on a fast-break pass by Cougar defenseman Kyle Kology.
Hayes won the ensuing face-off, which preceded a downhill dodge for an unassisted goal by Pierce that made it a 6-0 lead. Hayes then won the ball back with another face-off and Barnett connected off a Coleman pass for a 7-0 bulge with 2:37 left before the break.
Bryn Casey also contributed a goal in the second half for Chatham, which held a 12-0 lead before Brendan Leniw scored for Mahwah with 8:28 left in the fourth.
"We played very well today, Barnett said. "It was a little sloppy there, but we were able to run through our stuff pretty well and get some open looks. The defense was pretty amazing. They looked very good in practice yesterday and they just carried it into the game."
Austin Pierce scores off a pass from Kyle Kology in the first half for Chatham