Chatham routs Sparta to advance in Group II action

By Mark Kitchin


CHATHAM– Guess how the Chatham girls lacrosse team celebrated its 19th victory of the season and 17th consecutive triumph? The Cougars did it by running extra sprints on their hot Haas Field turf and vowing to change their lackadaisical ways.

Chatham defeated Sparta 21-10 to advance in the quarterfinal round of the Group II state tournament but the Cougars didn’t execute well enough to satisfy their coach Deb Marriott and they understood that their effort on Thursday was not going to get it done when tougher competition takes the field.

Kallan Murray, Kate Murphy and Kelsey Perseley each scored four goals to lift Chatham to the 19-2 mark. Jaclyn Leto and Mary Kate O’Neill had three goals and three assists apiece for the Cougars. Top-seeded Chatham hosts fourth-seeded West Essex in the semifinals. The Knights pounded Delaware Valley 20-8 on Thursday.

Julianna Vitolo and Claire Schmitzer each fired hat tricks for Sparta (10-8).

Chatham’s Kelsey Perseley would eventually score on this wild play in front of the Sparta net.

“It may have been an off day and we weren’t playing with as much intensity as we should have,’’ Leto said. “It was definitely a lesson learned and tomorrow at practice it’s going to be a new day. Were going to come out really fired up because we have a lot of motivation and dreams that we want to accomplish this season.’’

The spring seasons are always the toughest to keep focused on. There are senior proms and graduations to look forward to. When the weather gets warmer its easy to think about the good times coming. It’s also extremely easy for a team to slip up in state tournament play because of all the distractions. All it takes is one bad effort, or even just a few mistakes and the season is over.

“We want to win everything,’’ Perseley said. “Coach had a right to be upset and we all understand that. We messed up.

“Our motto is “No Regrets”. We look at each game believing that if we walk off that field with regrets, we know we’ve done something wrong.’’

Chatham’s Jaclyn Leto had three goals and three assists for the Cougars’ cause on Thursday.

It’s also understandable for Chatham to still be thinking a little about their MCT title win over Mendham on Saturday. The amazing game had the Cougars rallying from a five-goal deficit and getting a late goal from Leto to win it. Although most players believe they are over it, that doesn’t mean a memory or two from the great triumph doesn’t slip in the back of their minds from time to time.

“We compartmentalize it a lot, especially in practice,’’ Perseley said. “We can’t keep harping on the fact that we beat Mendham narrowly by one and then come out and play lackadaisically. It has to be a strong season from here on out. We can’t just look on the county tournament and say, ‘we won that and our season is done’. It’s not.’’

Chatham built a commanding 16-4 halftime lead and began substituting liberally in the second half and running some clock. Then Sparta, which seemed a little embarrassed with its first half performance, started winning ground balls and face offs and discovered ways to put the ball in the net.

Chatham’s Kelsey Perseley score four times including this goal late in the first half.

“Sparta is a good team,’’ Leto said. “They were really athletic, really intense. They came out in the second half with more intensity than we did.’’

The Spartans scored five consecutive goals to make it a 16-9 game with seven minutes left. At that point, if steam could come out of Marriott’s ears it probably would have. The Chatham coach put some of the starters back in and after the game, huddled her team up and challenged the Cougars to decide their fate: whether they had the focus in the determination to make a run at states or give in to the spring distractions and end up with only Morris County Tournament triumph to show for it

Chatham’s Mary Kate O’Neill left and Jaclyn Leto give chase to a loose ball. Sparta’s Emily Corrice joins the battle.

The Cougars understood. They eagerly ran their sprints and agreed to be all business from here on in at both practices and games. A determined and focused Chatham squad means bad news for the rest of the girls lacrosse teams in New Jersey.

“I think individually everyone here knows what we want to do,’’ Leto said. “Every day at practice it is going to be really intense. You never know now. It’s one and done.’’


About mcvbb

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

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