Chatham Girls Lacrosse Rallies to Defeat West Essex in North Semifinal; O'Neill Scores 100th Goal

Catherine McNiff leaps for joy Credits: Glenn Clark
Maggie O'Neill, No. 3, after scoring her 100th career goal Credits: Glenn Clark
Teammates swarm Maggie O'Neill after her 100th career goal Credits: Glenn Clark
Chatham head coach Hilary Renna, assistant Paul Garavente and middie Alex Frenzel as horn sounds Credits: Glenn Clark
Catherine McNiff keyed the comeback in the second half by winning draws like this one Credits: Glenn Clark
Chatham goalie Gislina Saul is greeted by her teammates Credits: Glenn Clark
Chatham goalie Gislina Saul and Bridget Ballard Credits: Glenn Clark
Chatham earns its third straight meeting with Summit in the North Jersey final Credits: Glenn Clark
Zoe Kraus gives two thumbs up, along with Nicole Weaving, Morgan Sullivan, Bridget Ballard and others. Credits: Glenn Clark
Morgan Sullivan (22) spent a lot of time in front of the West Essex net, scoring six goals for Chatham Credits: Glenn Clark
Chatham bench during the game Credits: Glenn Clark

CHATHAM, NJ - Maggie O'Neill notched her 100th career goal, Morgan Sullivan finished with six goals and Catherine McNiff dominated the draw after the break as the Chatham girls lacrosse team ralled to eliminate West Essex, 18-13, in the North Jersey, Group 2 semifinals played Thursday at Haas Field.

No. 2-seeded Chatham (14-6) travels to meet top-seeded Summit (17-4) for the North Jerey, Group 2 title on Wednesday. Summit defeated Chatham, 14-6, in a regular-season game played in Chatham on April 8.

West Essex (13-8) had scored the first goal of the second half to take an 11-7 lead before the Lady Cougars began their comback. 

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"We were down 11-7 in the beginning of the second half and we worked really hard to come back," Chatham coach Hilary Renna said. "The girls never got frantic that we were down, just consistently worked hard and played together to chip away one at a time. Our defense also came up with some huge stops in the second half."

One of the key moves Renna made for the second half was to go with sophomore McNiff, who contrrolled five draws for the Lady Cougars.

"We switched Catherine McNiff to the draw in the second half and she really dominated," Renna said. "She was a fiery spark the whole game and really rallied the team. Morgan Sullivan played great in both the first and second half. Maggie O'Neill also had a great game and played her heart out."

Abby Morgan's goal cut the deficit to 12-11 for Chatham with 11:25 to go before senior tri-captain O'Neill scored two goals in a span of eight seconds. O'Neill's third goal of the game was the 100th of her career.

Senior attack Sullivan collected six goals and an assist for Chatham, which received a goal and seven assists from junior middie Bridget Ballard.

"Our game is very fast and we like to push it," Sullivan said. "I scored at least three goals off the fast break. Catherine McNiff did a great job. When she started taking the draws it turned around the whole game. Bridget (Ballard) really pushed the fast break with her passes. The defense also drew some charges.

"This is the third year in a row that we're going to face Summit in the sectional final."

Emily Wingate had two goals and an assist for Chatham, including a goal at the end of the first half that cut the deficit to 10-7. 

Zoe Kraus scored three goals and the Lady Cougars also got a goal from Alex Frenzel. Beth Kuyk was credited with an assist for Chatham. Gislina Saul came up with seven saves for the Lady Cougars.

Skyler Simson scored five goals and Shannon Bertscha four goals and three assists to pace West Essex, which got two goals apiece from Rachel Cecere and Jordyn Thies.

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