CHATHAM, NJ – The Chatham Lady Cougars, ranked second in the Star Ledger Top Twenty, remember vividly what happened last year when fourth ranked Mendham defeated them 15-11 in the Morris County Tournament Finals to spoil their hopes at capturing a county crown two years in a row.
Seniors Jaclyn Leto and Kallen Murray helped to extract a matter of revenge by combining for eight of the 10 Chatham goals as they defeated Mendham in early regular season action 10-7 on Thursday afternoon at Haas Field in Chatham.
“It feels amazing. It’s incredible beating them our senior year. We really pulled it together as a team. Everyone on the field played with all their heart. It was so much fun to play and beat them,” said Leto, who scored four goals for Chatham in the win.
Murray also scored four goals for Chatham, including the first three of the second half. She, like the rest of her teammates, shared the excitement of beating one of their arch rivals.
“We knew it was going to be a really, really tough game coming into it. They’re obviously really good. We knew it was going to be all from inside of us; a lot of heart and a lot of hustle,” Murray commented.
After the score was knotted up at five apiece at the half, Murray came out of the gate with what seemed like a bit of extra spark.
She scored three in a row to start a five goal onslaught in the second half for Chatham in a span of under seven minutes.
“At halftime, we were like ‘we want this so bad.’ I was just getting angry. I really worked hard for it,” Murray said of her scoring surge that gave the home team an 8-5 advantage with 18:19 left in the contest.
While the offense had perhaps their best showing of the season thus far, the Chatham defense played solid all afternoon; namely in the first half when Mendham had most of the possession.
Mendham’s leading scorer, Ally Messinger, was held to just one goal through the first 25 minutes as she was being hounded throughout the game by Chatham defensive standout Kit Whiteman. Senior goaltender Hannah Reader also had an outstanding game. She finished with 10 saves; seven of those came in the first half.
Leto scored her third of the game midway through the second half to bump the Chatham lead up to four at 9-5; their biggest advantage of the game.
Refusing to give up, Mendham made a decent push late in the game when Paige Russell found the back of the cage with 6:10 left followed by Messinger’s second goal with 1:27 remaining in the contest.
The time disparity between the two scores proved to be huge for Chatham as Mendham simply ran out of time in their comeback attempt.
Reader made one final save with about a minute left before Chatham cleared the ball out of their defensive zone and Leto scored her fourth with 1.2 seconds to go.
“Today we really utilized all seven girls on the offense. We had a lot of movement; great feeds and cuts,” Leto told The Alternative Press. “I wouldn’t have been able to score any goals if it wasn’t for the other six girls. We really played as a unit."
The first half saw some exciting back and forth action as Chatham gained the lead twice only to have Mendham come back and tie the score both times.
Murray scored first off a nice move to the center slot before firing in a shot past Mendham goaltender Abby Witczak less than 1:30 in. Then, Mary Kate O’Neill scored for Chatham off a penalty shot for the early 2-0 lead.
Mendham would come right back after winning the next two face offs and scoring twice in a span of just 1:05.
Chatham seemed to have things well in hand when Leto scored two in a row and Liz Hyde connected from the left slot to give them a 5-2 lead.
However, Mendham scored the final three goals of the first half to tie the score and set up an exciting final 25 minutes of play.
While Chatham is only six games into their young season, a win against one of the top teams in the state should certainly provide momentum going forward. They are going to need it as they face off against nationally ranked Manhasset (NY) Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. at Haas Field.
“I think this game will help us. We got our team rallying and rolling. Now were all in the game and I think tomorrow we’re going to keep that momentum going and play with our hearts and see where that takes us,” Murray said.
Chatham collected 28 ground balls and fired 20 shots on goal in Tuesday afternoon's win.
Along with Mendham, they have defeated Oak Knoll, West Essex and Hunterdon Central this season. Their only two losses came at the hands of number one ranked Ridgewood in overtime and Saint Anthony’s (NY).