WAYNE, NJ - Elizabeth Droner was forced from the game in the first half when her lower lip began to bleed from an elbow she took to the face. After the game, she lifted her arm to show an ugly patch of skin that had been scraped raw during her numerous up-close meetings with the turf.
The senior attacking midfielder, however, wasn't licking any wounds after the game. Instead, she was wearing them as the badges of courage she earned in sparking Chatham to victories over two formidable Wayne high school soccer teams - as the Cougars climbed over the Hills on Friday and conquered the Valley on Sunday.
Droner scored on two penalty kicks in the 2-1 win on Sunday, powering No. 2 seed Chatham past No. 1 Wayne Valley for the NJSIAA Northwest Region, Group 3 Championship.
"I'm bleeding everywhere," Droner said. "It was rough. Everyone wanted to win, so I knew it was going to be a tough game. But I knew if I put my body in front of everything we could do it. It's the last game, I've got to give it all on the field. I have to put everything out and that's what I did."
Chatham (14-1) broke the 1-1 tie just four minutes into the second half. Paige Droner had taken a corner kick that a Wayne Valley player tried to clear with a header. But the ball hit her arm and dropped to the turf and the whistle was blown. Droner put the game-winner into the lower right corner (see below).
"I always look to see which way the goalie is kind of leaning," she said. "The first time, I went the wrong way and she (Astrid McGraw) nearly stopped it. So I knew that she was going to go that side the second time, so I just did completely the opposite side."
From that point on, Wayne Valley (12-2) did all it could to press forward in hopes of extending its 12-game winning streak. Chatham goalie Cate Hackett was credited with 10 saves.
"Being on a defensive mode for so long in a game was so weird," Chatham senior captain Sophie Straka said. "That's never happened to us before where we had to hold a lead for that long. But we did a very good job and everyone played their hearts out and I'm just honestly so proud of everyone.
"I just don't feel like it's real. It feels like it's too good to be true. It hasn't even sunk it. It still doesn't feel real."
The Indians put Chatham on its heels in the eighth minute when Ava Whisten scored for a 1-0 edge. That was the 56th goal of the year for Wayne Valley and the 12th of the season for Whisten.
But Chatham pulled even with exactly 1:00 showing on the clock in the first half after Droner was taken down in the box for a penalty kick (see below)
Droner followed by slipping her shot past the diving goalie for the tie heading into the break (see below).
"It was one of the most physical games we've ever played," Straka said. "I'm just glad the refs were able to acknowledge that with giving us the calls when we deserved it because they were definitely hammering us out there. I'm just glad everyone managed to stay on their feet, stay healthy and keep their cool and not push back too much."
Chatham coach Gary Adair described the championship as a seminal moment in the program's history during his six years as the head coach.
"We talked about it (Saturday) about what it means for the girls, what it means for the program, and they all said the same thing," Adair said. "They wanted to set the tone, they wanted to put a marker down for the program of the future. They wanted to do it for the seniors.
"The plan worked. These 14 seniors, we kept them together in the hope that this would happen when they got to their senior year. We're just really happy that the plan worked. I'm really happy for them. They absolutely deserved it."
COUGAR NOTES: Purdue University commit Elizabeth Droner netted five goals in the final four games of the season - four coming in three state tournament games - and all four in the states being penalty kicks ... Chatham outscored its opponents, 39 to 13, this season with 12 different players netting goals. The goal scorers for the Cougars in 2020 were Elizabeth Droner (10 goals, 8 assists), Ashley Kiernan (7 goals, 8 assists), Sophie Straka (4 goals, 5 assists), Remmey McEnroe (4 goals 1 assist), Olivia Garman (3 goals, 1 assist), Kayleigh Coughlin (3 goals), Caitriona Logsdon (2 goals, 3 assists), Leigha Matter (2 goals), Paige Droner (1 goal, 9 assists), Audrey Van Wie (1 goal), Meryn Dziemian (1 goal) and Callie Regan (1 goal) ... in its closing six-game winning streak the Cougars outscored their opponents, 14 to 2 - which included four shutouts, including 1-0 vs. Wayne Hills on Friday ... the Cougars were 7-0 at home this season and 7-1 on the road ... Fire department trucks from Chatham Township, Chatham Borough and Green Village greeted the champions return with sirens and horns in the CHS parking lot.