CHATHAM, NJ - The first senior class to finish four years under Chatham field hockey coach Kaitlin Leyden made its mark last fall by reaching the state sectional tournament semifinals and ending with an 11-6-1 record.
The sign that Leyden's program is on the rise is the fact that no one is bemoaning the loss of eight starters to graduation.
"I'm fully confident in these girls," Leyden said. "The coaches were saying that it's fun because, typically, you have a girl who plays a role and is very instrumental and when you take her out the girls around her don't know what to do with a replacement. This year, the girls are so versatile, a defender can play a forward position, a forward can come back and understand their role on defense.
"There are lots of juniors and seniors who understand their roles and are connecting really well."
The offense features junior Avery Buckman, the third in her family to play for Chatham. She teams up with juniors Claire Tunny and Alexa Lee, and seniors Hailey Coates and Lucy Walrond.
The midfield has three-year varsity player in junior Charlotte Hamilton and senior Gabby Cutlip, along with junior Paige DeBiase and seniors Ella DuRie and Julia LeRoy.
Leyden seems to light up when she talks about the defense of senior Cameron Bresnahan, and juniors Livvy Von Heill, Carlin Chazen, and Sarah Delaney.
"They're fast and they communicate with each other," Leyden said. "What's nice about it is that they have confidence and they go to the ball first. They'll take the ball up, too. It's going to be a fun year."
The goalies are juniors, Grace Zinn and Connie Conlan.
Three of Chatham's six losses in 2018 came at the hands of county power Morristown. The Cougars open the 2019 season at home against the Colonials, 4 p.m. Thursday at Haas Field.