CHATHAM, NJ - After a slow start in Thursday's boys varsity lacrosse game against Ridge, the Chatham Cougars poured on five unanswered goals in the second and third quarters to beat the Devils 10-6 at Cougar Field. Cougar goal keeper Robert Coe made 12 saves in the game, including seven in the second half to hold off a late Tiger run and seal Chatham's seventh win of the year.
"When the pressure comes on, I almost always play better," Coe said. "It was a tough game but they were getting some good shots. I was seeing the ball well, the defense was pushing them out and I was making the saves."
Chatham led early in the first, as Thomas Guida scored 49 seconds into the game. Ridge battled back for two consecutive goals from Eric Scott and Sean O'Brien to take a 2-1 lead. Christof Strunc and Paul Hackett regained the Chatham lead with two straight goals, before Alex Berckley tied the game before the end of the first quarter.
In the second, Chatham took control. Sam Carson scored two goals in the period, with Richard Berger adding one of his own to give the Cougars a 6-3 halftime lead.
"In the first and second quarter, we feel that we let some goals in that we shouldn't have," Coe said. "We let some guys get some looks that they shouldn't have got. Then the defense and the whole team really clicked. At the end of the second quarter we put in some goals and made some saves."
After halftime, the Cougars came out firing. Chet McLaughlin and Joey Ritter connected for two man-up goals to give Chatham an 8-3 lead. McLaughlin scored both goals on the same play, cutting across the net and shooting low. He was happy to see the play work after practicing it for a while. "We've been working on that man-up play for a while, so it finally worked," he said. "We kind of planned for that and they didn't see it coming the second time."
With the five-goal advantage, it was up to Coe and the Chatham defense to hold the lead. Despite allowing three goals to end the third, Coe made several saves during back-to-back Ridge possessions to keep the team up 8-6.
In the fourth, Hackett and Guida scored in the final three minutes to hold off Ridge's comeback. "Rob [Coe] played great today," McLaughlin said. "He probably played the best game of his season. No one could get anything by him today."
The victory improves Chatham's record to 7-3. With the county tournament quickly approaching, the Cougars will have to beat two teams that put them away earlier in the year, Delbarton and Summit.
Coe said the team is up to the challenge because they have changed since playing both teams. "The team is playing much better now," Coe said. "Everyone is playing as a team. The offense has clicked. The defense has clicked. I think that we're going to give them a shot at their money. Everyone is just playing better and we're just a more solid team now."