CHATHAM, NJ - The congratulatory group texts from Chatham girls soccer alumni came soon after the game ended. The Cougars' 4-3 win over West Morris on Monday had ended a 15-year drought in matchups with the Wolfpack and possibly served as an omen of what could be a historic season.
"I'm really excited," senior co-captain Jen Olnowich said. "I didn't think we'd be this good, this soon because of all the new players. Once the regular season started, everything kind of came together.
"(West Morris) was the game I've been looking forward to since we lost to them in the states last year. It was 2-1, we were so close to winning. It just really motivated everyone to win."
Olnowich routinely gives a short speech in the huddle before the game and then loudly leads the "Chatham on three, 1-2-3 CHATHAM" cheer. The midfielder has taken her leading role onto the field, matching her season total for goals scored from 2018 in just three games this season.
In the 3-0 opening win at Mendham, Olnowich notched a goal and an assist. She followed that by scoring both goals, the second in overtime, in a 2-1 win at Bernards. Against West Morris, she put away the first goal five minutes into the match and then made the pass that set up the game-winning penalty kick by Elizabeth Droner in overtime.
Jen Olnowich is the Hawk Allstate Chatham Athlete of the Week.
Olnowich broke onto the varsity soccer scene as a freshman four years ago by scoring nine goals as a striker. To no one's surprise, she is starting to stand out in the midfield with a more talented group of teammates.
"I think one of the big things is we've got all the players around her who are growing up, the attention is off her a little more, so she finds herself in these little pockets," Chatham coach Gary Adair said. "Plus, she's a senior, so everything she was doing as a freshman maybe she never got away with because of her size. She's bigger, stronger, faster than a lot of these kids and it only helps her.
"She wants to win and everyone follows her. Jen is very focused on winning and is a very competitive kid."
Olnowich is more well known for her athletic accomplishments on the ice. This fall, she is playing goalie for the AA Penguin boys ice hockey club team, alongside other Chatham players. Last winter, she was a high-scoring defender for the Chatham-Madison league championship girls ice hockey team while also playing goalie for a boys club team.
Although she loves to win, just playing soccer in the fall with her teammates is what motivates Olnowich, who has committed to playing goalie for the Princeton University women's ice hockey team.
"It's like the most fun thing ever," the 17-year-old said. "I just like playing with my schoolmates because in hockey I play with all boys and it's a completely different experience. Last year, I considered not even playing soccer after I committed to Princeton because I was worried about getting injured.
"It's my favorite thing to do. I just love everything about high school sports and I get to play with all my friends. I play hockey all year round, so for the couple months I play soccer it's a break for me and it's really fun."
Olnowich reveals that she is very serious about her role as co-captain with fellow midfielder Grace Van Sciver. How serious? She even missed an ice hockey practice so she could be at soccer practice.
"I give a little speech before the game and get everyone excited to play," Olnowich said. "I'm pretty loud and I can tell people what to do. My main job is to make sure everyone is working hard. We're so good that if we continue to work hard, we're going to be amazing. Fall is my favorite time of the year. It's very busy, but I love it."
Editor's note: The Hawk Allstate Chatham Athlete of the Week is sponsored by the John Hawk Agency. John and his team have been protecting local families and business owners for over 12 years. Call them at 973-635-9494 for a new auto, home, life and business insurance quote this week and if you mention the Hawk Allstate Chatham Athlete of the Week they will make a $20 contribution to the Chatham Booster Club! To learn more, visit the agency website.