CHATHAM, NJ - Chatham field hockey coach Kaitlin Leyden noticed something different this time when her team met county nemesis Morristown in the season opener on Thursday. Her team didn't play scared.
"They've wanted this for a very long time," Leyden said. "Our alumni from last year reached out to them because they knew last year they could (beat Morristown), but they played scared. It's just that intimidation of a five-year drought against Morristown."
The only thing scary about Chatham's impressive 2-0 win over the Colonials at Haas Field is how good the Cougars can be this season.
"For four years, Morristown was a powerhouse and now they're starting to realize they can be a powerhouse as well," Leyden said. "We are heavy with talent all over the field."
No one is sure when Chatham last beat Morristown, but it was the first time a Leyden-coached Cougar team had won over the Colonials in her five-year tenure. Last fall, half of Chatham's six losses came at the hands of Morristown.
All that changed from the opening whistle in this one, as the Cougars dominated possession and the game. Junior midfielder Charlotte Hamilton scored less than two minutes into the game when she received the penalty corner insert from Carlin Chazen and fired it home for a 1-0 lead (see the video below).
"It's been a goal of ours for years and to put it together is just an awesome feeling," Hamilton said. "We've been working toward this all preseason and now we're ready for our next game."
Chatham got a goal from Avery Buckman 10 minutes into the first half to make it 2-0. Hailey Coates received the ball at the top of the circle and sent it Buckman at the left post, where she coaxed it into the net.
In the final minute of the first half, Morristown made a bid to score on a penalty corner. A hard blast in the air was knocked down with a glove save by Chatham's junior goalie Connie Conlan, making her first varsity start.
"When I saw it in the air, I knew I had to move to it as fast as I could," Conlan said. "If I couldn't make it, I knew the defense would because they always have my back."
Conlan finished with three saves, including a big pad save in the second half. Her defense, however, was mostly impenetrable with a back line of Cameron Bresnahan, Chazen, Livvy Von Heill and defensive midfielder Hamilton.
Chatham came into the preseason having worked hard on their conditioning and versus Morristown, it produced a dominating possession game that included passing, speed and stamina.
"We passed the ball and we've conditioned quite a bit," Coates saud. "We can pass and move and Morristown could not keep up. We've done the conditioning to keep going, so we just wanted to keep that fire for the second half."
Connie Conlan, Avery Buckman, Hailey Coates and Charlotte Hamilton talk about the historic win over Morristown
"From defense to offense to goalie included, it was incredible," Leyden said. "They deserve it.
"Over the summer this team put in an incredible amount of hard work. They came back in better shape, better skilled. It was a pleasure as a coach to come out and see such a talented group. Passing is our biggest strength. Pass-move, pass-move with our speed."
Leyden didn't want the team to dwell on this one victory, so she quickly changed the subject to Saturday's home game against another Morris County power, West Morris.
"We're talking about West Morris next, one game at a time," she said. "We were 1-1 with them last year. They always have talent. We know it's going to be a very tough game. We have to stay focused."