CHATHAM, NJ -- It would be fair to say that top-seeded Chatham "sweated out" its 13-7 win over Northern Highlands in the NJSIAA North Group 3 girls lacrosse semifinals on Wednesday, especially since the temperature was in the 80s for the morning resumption of the game suspended on Tuesday.
No. 4 seed Northern Highlands (14-5) trailed, 10-4, a little more than six minutes into the second half, but battled back to cut its deficit to 11-7 with 4:43 to go. That's when senior middie Sophie Straka regained control, causing a turnover and picking up the ground ball for Chatham that led to her own free position goal with 2:45 left.
Straka followed with a downhill run to the net for her career-high fifth goal of the game, closing out the scoring with 1:25 showing.
So far, Chatham (18-1) has won 13 in a row, but none of the previous games in the streak will mean as much as its long-anticipated meeting with No. 2 seed Mendham in the NJSIAA North Group 3 championship game set for 3 p.m. Thursday at Haas Field.
Sophie Straka talks about the semifinal win and matchup with Mendham
"I said it the first time, I said it the second time, it's hard to beat a team three times in one season, but we've watched a lot of film on ourselves in those games and we have a lot of adjustments to make to be successful tomorrow (against Mendham)," Chatham coach Helen McCutcheon Oliver said. "I have complete confidence that we can put together a 50-minute game. Getting to this level has been one of our goals, so the girls are excited."
Chatham held a 6-1 lead on Tuesday with 8:56 left before thunder suspended play. The Highlanders scored first when play resumed around 9 a.m. Wednesday, but consecutive goals by Ashley Kiernan, Straka and Carly Frohnapfel gave the Cougars a 9-2 lead at the halftime break.
Carly Frohnapfel's goal made it 9-2 with 33 seconds left in the first half
"We have to bring intensity to every game we play," Oliver said. "Northern Highlands played a really, really great game. We struggled on the draw and our defense stepped up in the second half when we needed it. I'm excited for another game."
COUGAR NOTES: The last time Chatham lost to Mendham was in the 2019 NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3 state tournament final, 10-7, in Mendham. This year, Chatham won at Mendham, 8-6, on May 8, and then 9-7 in the Morris County Tournament final played at Mount Olive ... Mendham defeated Millburn in its North semifinal on Wednesday, 22-14 ... Sophie Straka scored a career-high five goals in the win vs. Northern Highlands and leads Chatham with 67 points (45 goals, 22 assists) ... senior attack Haley Riabov has 48 points (40 goals, 8 assists) and sophomore attack Ashley Kiernan has 54 points for the Cougars (30 goals, 24 assists) ... senior Megan McIntyre scored five goals for Mendham against Millburn in the semifinals and has scored 65 points for the Minutemen (56 goals, 9 assists).