CHATHAM, NJ - Many people consider Thursday to be the unofficial start of the weekend. The Chatham field hockey team might fall into that category, and they started this weekend’s loaded home sports slate with a bang.
The Cougars rebounded strongly from an overtime loss to state-ranked Montclair in their last game with a 2-0 win over Montville under the lights at Cougar Field on Thursday. The Cougars scored both of their goals in the second half, courtesy of junior Amrita Sooklal and senior Caroline Paulson.
Chatham held an 8-2 advantage in shots on goal in the first half, but the match was scoreless going into the intermission. During their halftime talk, head coach Kaitlin Leyden stressed the importance of getting on the board early out of the break.
“It’s Cougar Night, so the nerves got to us in the first half,” Leyden said. “I told them they needed to be more aggressive and communicate more, which was a big problem for us. I wanted them to go out there and get fired up, and that’s what they did.”
Midfielder Noelle Bessette ignited the first goal by carrying past two Montville players and sending the ball into the circle, where Ellie Walker passed it to Sooklal for the goal.
The team was fully aware throughout the day that this was a must-win game to start Cougar Weekend the right way.
“This was really important, especially to kick off the Cougar Weekend festivities with soccer and football tomorrow and Saturday,” Sooklal said. “We wanted to get our fans excited and get some momentum for the whole weekend.”
It would be Paulson, who would supply the insurance goal shortly after on a “circus shot” as she lifted the ball over the head of the Montville goalie and into the net. Walker took the penalty corner and sent the ball to Paulson for the shot.
“Lifting the ball has actually been one of the things we’ve been working on in practice,” Walker said. “It was awesome that we were able to execute what we’d been practicing.”
Paulson's shot actually deflected off the stick of a Montville defender and rose on an arc over everyone and into the goal.
“She was being denied of making a pass she was supposed to execute, so she had to be creative and that was what she did,” Leyden said. “It was a surprise, but we’ll take it.”
Next up for Chatham is a road matchup on Saturday in the Morris County Tournament against Morristown, which defeated the Lady Cougars, 4-0, in their season opener back on Sept. 8.
“Morristown is a powerhouse and we’re still climbing up that hill, trying to get better and better,” Leyden said. “I can only imagine how great they’re going to play on Saturday.”
Noelle Bessette carries past two defenders before centering the ball to Ellie Walker, who passes it to Amrita Sooklal for the goal in the second half that staked Chatham to a 1-0 lead