SUCCASUNNA, NJ – Jaclyn Leto and Kat McCutcheon scored three goals apiece for the Chatham Lady Cougars, but the team could not withstand a five goal surge midway through the first half and a four goal surge midway through the second half from second ranked Mendham as the number four ranked team in the state was defeated 15-11 in the final round of the Morris County Tournament on Wednesday night at Roxbury High School.
In an intense, tightly played girls lacrosse matchup Chatham was able to grab a 4-2 lead in the beginning of the first half. They also scored three goals in a row late in the second half when they were able to cut the deficit to four goals, but their comeback proved to be too little, too late, as the defense did not do enough to stop a dynamic, high powered offensive Mendham team.
“We didn’t play a good game defensively at all. In the first half… and for the beginning part of the second half we didn’t pressure the ball out like we were supposed to,” Chatham Head Coach Deb Marriot said after the game. “We also didn’t set help with the second slide early enough.”
It was certainly a tough night for the defense, but the Chatham offense did a solid job throughout much of the night. Leto scored the first goal of the game off a shot from the slot that trickled past Mendham goaltender Abby Witczak as Chatham grabbed an early 1-0 advantage.
Mendham scored next when Nicole Graziano fired in a goal after a Chatham penalty, but then McCutcheon answered right back for Chatham when she scored off a nice feed from Leto. Kelsey Perselay scored soon after that and then Leto got her second tally of the game to put Chatham up by two at the 16:02 mark of the first half.
“We had a lot of momentum because… we were gaining possession,” Marriot said about the start of the game.
Soon after Leto’s second goal, however, momentum quickly shifted to Mendham’s side. Chatham could not seem to win a faceoff, no matter who took the draw, and Mendham took advantage of their possessions by scoring five goals in a row in span of 4:45 to grab a 7-4 lead at the 10:14 mark of the first.
McCutcheon brought Chatham to within two a few minutes later when she lasered a shot into the back of the cage after making a nice cut move to the front of the Mendham goal.
Ally Messinger, who scored eight goals in the contest, answered back for Mendham when she made a move from behind the goal before firing a shot that beat Chatham goaltender Hannah Reader. The teams traded a goal apiece near the end of the first half as Chatham was down 9-6 at halftime.
The second half did not go in Chatham’s favor either. They were down 11-8 a couple of minutes in and then the defense yielded four goals in a row as Mendham grabbed a commanding 15-8 lead to take firm control of the game.
Being down by seven goals with about 10 minutes to go in the second half, the Chatham offense did not give up in a very difficult predicament. They were able to score three goals in a span of 2:26 to set up for an exciting finish.
Mary Kate O’Neill scored on a shot from the center slot for Chatham and then McCutcheon netted a score after a Mendham penalty. Leto rounded out the three goal rally as they were down 15-11 at the 4:19 mark of the second half.
“We had resurgence. We started to pressure the ball on defense. Because of the pressure, we were able to get the turnovers on defense, which we normally get,” Marriot commented.
Kit Whiteman had another chance for Chatham with just under four minutes remaining in the affair, but her attempt was thwarted by Witczak.
Mendham played keep away for much of the remainder of the game to preserve their Morris County Tournament Championship.
Chatham is now 14-4 on their season. They will have a chance for some revenge when they again play Mendham in a regular season matchup.
When asked what her team needs to do in order to come out on top against Mendham, Coach Marriot responded: “I think we really need to bone our defense up. Our defense obviously is not as tight as it used to be with the absence of Lindsey Ford (who was injured earlier in the season). Now, we really have work to do with it, so that will be our focus in practice tomorrow.”
The game against Mendham will be played this Friday at 4 p.m. at Mendham High School.