CHATHAM, NJ - Chatham boys lacrosse coach Tony Calandra isn't a glass-half-full kind of guy. He's a coach who expects his team to fill the glass to the top every time they step on the field.
Calandra has high expectations for his 2014 team, so it's difficult to satisfy him. But even Calandra had to admit that winning 10 of 15 games against the competition it has faced thus far is pretty good.
That was the bottom line on Saturday when Chatham closed out its regular season with a 9-7 victory over Hunterdon Central at Cougar Field.
"We were in a pretty good place up 6-2 at the half and then we made it 7-2 and we just kind of let up," Calandra said. "We told them at the halftime that (Hunterdon Central) is a state-championship caliber team and they're not going to give up.
"We did a better job of making good decisions on offense. We're just trying to be more patient and make better decisions. It's a matter of them understanding that. When the game gets close it's harder to make better decisions."
David Gill scores in first half for Chatham in video below
Adam Drury won the opening faceoff for Chatham and the Cougars turned it into a goal when Austin Pierce fired in a shot off a feed from David Gill. Jake Jones tied it for Hunterdon Central (6-6) before Gill (3 goals, 2 assists) went straight to the net and connected for a 2-1 edge.
In the final minute of the first quarter, Gill charged the net and then sent a pass across his body, finding Thomas Berger up top. The freshman finished his chance for a 3-1 lead. Gill's angled shot off a pass from Thomas Berger upped the lead to 4-1 in the second period.
Scott Lynch scored off a feed from Richard Berger before Evan Bernard finished off a sequence that started with a pass from Pierce to Will Barnett, who then made a quick feed to Bernard in front for the goal and a 6-2 advantage. Goalie Matt Grilli was sharp in making six saves for the Cougars in the first half.
Gill's rocket of an overhand shot in the third quarter staked the Cougars to a 7-2 lead before things started to go wrong. Penalties and unforced mistakes hurt Chatham and gave Hunterdon Central the opening it needed to get back in it. Two straight goals by Tim Cuccio and another by Jake Jones cut it to 7-5 for the Red Devils.
Barnett interrupted Hunterdon Central's momentum when he came from behind the net to stuff one in with 27 seconds left in the third.
In the fourth quarter, Jones' fourth goal of the game and the third by Cuccio sliced the Chatham lead to 8-7 with 9:11 to go. But Lynch gave the Cougars the cushion it needed when he received a pass from Pierce, spun toward the net and scored.
"We were in a free zone type of offense and I had an alley right behind the net," Lynch said. "Austin made a great pass. That goal took a lot of the pressure off."