CHATHAM, NJ - As an ice hockey goalie with a reputation for excellence at the position, Chatham senior Jen Olnowich can certainly relate to what a standout performance in goal can mean to a girls soccer team.
Olnowich was reminded of the effects of a hot goalie on Monday when Summit keeper Sophie Zachara put on a show in the Hilltoppers' 4-0 win over the Cougars in the opening round of the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3 state tournament at Haas Field.
"They have a really good goalie," Olnowich said. "Their goalie got hurt and then she came back and they haven't lost since."
Chatham (9-7-2) came into the game as the sixth seed and Summit (8-8-2) was tagged as the No. 11 seed in the bracket. But the two teams were trending in different directions.
Chatham had opened the season 5-0, but injuries put them at less than full strength as it closed out the 2019 campaign winless in its final eight games (0-5-3). Summit, after an 0-4-2 streak, has gone 6-1-1 with Zachara back since Oct. 7.
Olnowich, who made a return from an injury herself, was thwarted by the diving Zachara twice (see videos below) in the first half - once on a breakaway and another time on a drive to the near post.
While Zachara, who was credited with eight saves, was keeping Chatham at bay, Summit got a goal apiece from Grace Matter, Ashley Thomas, Isis Ovares and Sara Penuela to take a 4-0 lead into the halftime break.
"Their goalie played very well," Chatham coach Gary Adair said. "She made some big saves in some big moments in the game. We could easily have had five or six today, but it wasn't to be. We were definitely ready to play, we just didn't execute.
"Ultimately, its something for the younger players to learn that in a season nothing is given to you. There are injuries, but that can't be the excuse. It's always sad to lose at the end of the season."
Jennifer Olnowich has her breakaway chance thwarted by goalie Sophie Zachara's diving save
Chatham midfielder Elizabeth Droner makes a bid to score in the first half
Jen Olnowich drills a shot toward the lower corner that is saved by the Summit goalie
"It was a really good season," Olnowich said. "We had a lot of potential, unfortunately we couldn't do anything in the county or state tournament. It was a good season. I think everyone is disappointed with how it ended, considering how it started off."