MENDHAM, NJ - The Chatham girls lacrosse team that knocked off top-seeded Summit in the previous round on Monday could have easily had a letdown.
Chatham didn't let up, but it still wound up being a downer for the Cougars, a 10-7 loss to No. 2 seed Mendham in the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3 state championship game on Thursday.
"We came out fighting hard because we wanted it bad, but so did they," Chatham senior Frances Workman said. "It was a really good game. I know these girls (from Chatham) are going to do a lot next year."
It was the rubber match between these two Morris County rivals and the pull went Mendham's way early and late in this one. The Minutemen moved to a 4-0 lead and then had enough to hold off an unwavering Chatham team at the end.
Mendham (18-3) came out of the halftime break with a 6-3 lead and - after more than an hour of suspended play because of lightning - scored first to take a 7-3 advantage. That's when senior Frances Workman and sophomore Sophie Straka tried to carry the Chatham team on their backs.
First, Workman put away an 8-meter chance to slice the deficit to 7-4 before the Minutemen came back with a goal to grab an 8-4 lead. Just 42 seconds later, Straka struck for Chatham after breaking inside and receiving a pass from Haley Riabov (see below), making it 8-5.
Workman, who ended with four goals, then scored inside off a feed from behind by Ally Franz (see below), narrowing the deficit to 8-6 with 13:32 showing.
About two minutes later, the relentless Straka (3 goals, 1 assist) battled her way through a crowd to finish her free-position chance (see the video below) and make it a one-goal game at 8-7 with 11:28 to go.
Mendham called timeout after the Straka goal and regained their footing by scoring twice after the break to grab a 10-7 lead.
"They came out and won that first draw and then we scored three unanswered, which proves our fight and resiliency and desire to win," Chatham coach Helen Oliver said of the second half.
"It wasn't our day, but not without a big fight. Everyone would have liked a different outcome, but we proved we deserved to get to this spot. Beating Summit, getting to this round again. Bringing Chatham back to where it used to be."
Chatham (14-6) made a bid to close the gap when Franz scored with 2:52 showing, but the goal (see below) was waved off by the referees. After that, Mendham was able to run out the clock.