ROBBINSVILLE, NJ - The Chatham Lady Cougars became repeat State Champions on Thursday afternoon with a 16-8 victory over Rumson in the NJSIAA Group II Finals at Robbinsville High School. Rumson excelled in draw controls, earning possession 17 times out of a game total of 27 draws, but Jaclyn Leto of Chatham overcame Rumson's efforts with seven goals before the Lady Cougars went on a 6-1 run in the last 11 minutes to triumph.
Senior midfielder Megan Douty of Rumson beat past O’Neill and Leto of Chatham to score the first goal two minutes in. Chrissy Lushefski of Rumson possessed at the draw, but Callie Farmakus stole, and Leto scored three minutes in after a shooting space call.
Leto held the ball again four minutes later and assisted Cat McCutcheon’s goal from the left shoulder of the net. Lushefski of Rumson possessed at the next draw and sped down field for a goal at the 17:34 mark.
“In the first half, we came out a little slow. We were bobbling balls in the midfield and we weren’t as sharp as we normally are, so at halftime we just said ‘it’s a whole new game, we have to come out more intense and stronger,’ and that’s what we did, and we were able to really secure it in the second half,” Leto commented after the game.
Douty of Rumson possessed at the draw, and scored six minutes later after each team boasted an interception and a steal. Claire Scarrone of Rumson and O’Neill of Chatham took shots that failed to connect before Liz Hyde of Chatham scored a goal after as hooting space to tie the score at 3-3.
Perselay assisted an undefended Leto in the center of the zone for a goal with three minutes left to take the lead of 4-3 and make one of the game’s best plays. Rumson occupied Chatham’s zone for the last minute and a half, and Charlotte Brodsky of Rumson scored with 16 seconds left to tie the game at 4-4 at halftime. Chatham took 10 shots on goals and Rumson took 15 in the first half.
Chatham goalie Hannah Reader said, “The whole game, they were trying to screen me in front of the goal, and we’ve never actually had a team do that to us before, where the girl stands in front of the goal. Our defense didn’t really know what the do at that point, but I told them just to try to push them out as hard as they can and let me see more of the ball.”
Douty of Rumson possessed at the first draw of the second half, but Perselay stole and delivered to Kallan Murray, who passed Rumson’s zone for a goal a minute in. An interception by McCutcheon landed Chatham in Rumson’s zone, and the team stayed on account of a push by Rumson and took four shots before Brittany Marriott assisted Leto for a goal at the 19:44 to land a two-goal edge of 6-4 over Rumson.
“It became challenging after the second half. We were tied at halftime, so we thought we had it, but they kept getting possessions at the draws, so it was very tough coming back from that. We tried to stop their big top players, #46 we knew was really good, and they just kept getting open and driving on us and we just couldn’t stop them and get back,” Douty of Rumson said after the game.
Reader blocked a shot by Ashley Bertrand of Rumson, and Kate Murphy assisted Leto down field for a goal at the 17:47 mark. Marriott of Chatham stole from Kelsey Cuje of Rumson, and Hyde assisted Murphy with a fast goal a minute later to double Rumson at 8-4.
Murray of Chatham scored after a shooting space call with 14 minutes left, but Cuje of Rumson stepped in with a draw possession and a goal 15 seconds later. Addie Elliott of Rumson stole from Hyde and passed to Lushefski, who assisted Scarrone for another Rumson goal at 12:45.
“They had to come up with the draw, that was the main thing. So we had to switch that up. Kelsey Perselay’s our draw specialist, we just needed a change with it, and our second go-to person- I wasn’t happy with how that was going- so we put the third person on it [Brittany Marriott] and it went a lot better. It was helpful having Kelsey, Jacluyn and MK on the circle instead of having them take the draw,” Chatham Coach Deb Marriott said.
Leto scored again after a shooting space call with 11:30 left, and Brodsky of Rumson scored 24 seconds later before Chatham went on a 6-1 run to victory. Leto owned Rumson’s zone with two unanswered goals, and O’Neill pushed through for a goal with eight minutes left to set Chatham’s lead at 13-7.
“We ran over the stuff- defensive slides, what we need to do, and they were on top of that. Our goalie was making great saves... it came down to our offense. We needed to work the ball better and find the net, so we started to shoot low and really get movement going. In the second half, we had a wealth of attackers scoring, so we spread it out and the draw was big, you had to come up with the ground balls and we did,” McCutcheon commented.
Murphy rotated around Rumson’s defense for a goal before Lushefski assisted Emily Knapp of Rumson for the team’s last goal with seven minutes left. Key player Douty of Rumson left the field after a foot injury at the 5:30 mark, and McCutcheon scored an open goal after a shooting space call.
O’Neill scored the last goal with two minutes left off a shooting space call, and Rumson was set back by two yellow-cards for slashing, enabling Perselay to hold possession for the last 15 seconds before the scoreboard stopped at 16-8, sending Chatham into center field to celebrate.
“This is the third title since 2008. We didn’t even watch game film or anything from last year. They [Rumson] were headed to a prom after the game last year, I don’t think they had a focus, and they are a different team than they were last year. They have Lushefski, they have Douty, all of them are formidable midfielders, and we had to come up with a plan to contain them,” Deb Marriott commented.
Rumson Coach Amy O’Keefe said, “We were psyched to be in this game in the first half, so unfortunately we couldn’t win the ground ball and the draw in the second half, and I think that just kind of turned the momentum a little bit, but I’m proud of them for being here. This is the second time we’re here, and we were a little bit closer than last year, so that’s all I can really ask for.”
Chatham will continue with another Championship Tournament against Morristown at Monmouth University on Tuesday.
McCutcheon said, “Morristown will be just like any other game. We’ll come ready to play, we’ll play hard, and with intensity and confidence, and we hope to come out on top of that game play. We have nothing to lose.”