Defensive minded Chatham topples Jefferson in state play

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountylacrosse

CHATHAM– Going into a state tournament game against Jefferson, Chatham was hoping for one thing on Friday – bagels, and they didn’t mean breakfast food.

The Cougars didn’t get the defensive shutout they desired but they were at their dominating best in an 18-5 triumph at Haas Field.

Twelve different players scored goals for Chatham (17-4). Kelsey Perselay fired a hat trick for the Cougars which will play Mahway, a 15-12 winner over Mount St. Dominic, in the semifinal round of North Group II state tournament on Tuesday. Emily Scognamiglia scored twice for the Falcons which finished one of the best seasons in school history at 14-7.

One reason that the Cougars have played so well this year is their ability to make quality stick checks which help provide plenty of offensive possessions. It’s a skill they work extra hard on and are very proud of doing.

Chatham’s Jaclyn Leto is great at making stick checks, gathering ground balls and going to the goal.

“Our coaches always tell us to make sure we have one step on them,’’ Chatham’s Brittany Marriott said. “And don’t go for the check if you are not in good body position so we always make sure that we have good body position first so its not going to be a dangerous check.’’

Indeed conditioning is important in order for the Cougars to get in the best possible position to make the check.

“We’re always taught to go for good body position before you go for the check,’’ Chatham Jaclyn Leto said. “Usually when our team does check it’s in the best situation. We really just work on being the faster team to get in front and make the better check.’’

Leto is one of Chatham’s top scorers and occasionally creates her own offense by getting a ground ball off her stick checks and taking it to the goal.

“We try to not foul to stay in front and if you are going to go for the check to be in front and it’s not across the body,’’ Leto said. “Our offense does a really good job of dropping into that double and redefending because we want the ball.’’

Chatham’s Brittany Marriott eludes a Jefferson defender during Friday’s state tournament contest.

They don’t want to wait until their opponents get in offensive position either. They can be tough on the ride and aren’t afraid to create double or triple teams in the midfield when the situation presents itself.

“Just yesterday we did a double-team drill in practice,’’ Marriott said. “Our assistant coaches talk it out with the defense when to send the doubles and when not to do it. In the midfield, if one girl is forcing out to the sideline it’s always good to have another girl go and help.’’

“We always look to close the girl down and access another defender also,’’ Leto added. So it’s not only a double, it’s like a triple in a way. That’s one thing we look for.’’

Knowing how to check properly is also important since the penalties for a yellow card have become more severe. A bad check can send a player to the bench for three minutes and force their team to play a man short. After the third card, the penalties became more severe.

“It not only affects the game you are playing in but if you get two yellow cards it affects the next game,’’ Leto said. “Yellow cards can be detrimental to the season if you have too many.’’

Chatham’s Brittany Marriott pushed the offense to set up another Chatham goal in Friday’s state tournament game.

Chatham didn’t have to rely on stick checks all that much on Friday because it won draws and ground balls and converted on most of its early possessions. The Cougars, which defeated the Falcons 17-4 in the opening round of Morris County Tournament play on April 23, scored six goals in the first six minutes and finished the first half with a 12-0 advantage.

Hannah Najafi broke the string with the Falcons first goal in the opening minute of the second half but Jefferson never cut its deficit to single digits. Chatham did plenty of substituting and even got some solid performances from their jayvee players to keep everyone sharp and healthy for the next round on Tuesday.

“We want to play 100 percent against every team we play,’’ Leto said. “No matter who we face, we want to be ready.’’

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About mcvbb

Mark Kitchin is a boys varsity basketball writer for the Morris County New Jersey area

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