Chatham repeats as Group II champion

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountylacrosse

FLEMINGTON — The Chatham girls lacrosse team had a week to prepare for Red Bank Catholic. It seems like the Cougars put their time to good use.

Jaclyn Leto scored six goals to lift Chatham to a 19-6 victory over Red Bank Catholic in the girls lacrosse state tournament Group II final held on Thursday on the turf at Hunterdon Central High School.

Kelsey Perselay and Lauren Maiorano each scored four times and Kate Murphy added a pair of goals for Chatham which has captured the group title for the third consecutive year. Chatham advances to next week’s Tournament of Champions semifinals which will be held on the campus of Monmouth University.

Maeve Conley and Tori Brown scored two goals apiece for Red Bank Catholic. Chatham took control early and built a 12-2 lead at the half. Much of the second half was played in running time since the Cougars maintained and even built on their double-digit advantage. Their play was surprising since they had not had a game in a week because of the state tournament scheduling.

The happy Cougars celebrate their third consecutive group title with a victory over Red Bank Catholic.

At this point in the Chatham program, the victory is just another step towards the ultimate goal but the Cougars handled it without a slip.

“Our team is in very good shape,’’ defender Callie Farmakis said. “We never let up in practice. We stay focused and kept the intensity up. It was weird having a long break in between but I think we came out strong and proved that we’ve been practicing really hard.’’

It had been a week since Chatham advanced to the title game. The Cougars showed no rustiness and in fact their play — especially on transition — seemed sharper and more energized than in previous games.

“We have a lot of speed in the midfield and our midfielders are great,’’ Chatham’s Lauren Maiorano said. “The transition looked beautiful today and we all connect so well with each other. We threaded some passes and put it in the net.’’

Chatham’s Lauren Maiorano (12) fires in one of her four goals during first half action on Thursday.

Chatham scored eight goals in the first 15 minutes of play and never seemed to let up in its scoring barrage. Many of the goals came quickly, some off draws neatly won by Perselay either by herself or to her teammates. Often it only took two or three passes for the Cougars to find themselves close to the net and open for a good shot.

“They liked to swarm the ball in transition so we were ready for that,’’ Farmakis said. “We needed to keep our heads up when we were switching down the field. We just needed to look for that next pass and then the second pass, so we worked on that a lot (in practice).’’

When Red Bank Catholic had the ball, Chatham was prepared for the Caseys’ offensive strengths.

“They always wanted to run it down the field and they worked from behind the goal,’’ Farmakis said. “We worked on defending behind the crease and trying to get that interception when they were passing it from behind the goal to the top of the eight (meter). We did that pretty well.’’

Jaclyn Leto scored six times for the Cougars and also looks intimidating when an opponent tries to clear the ball.

Chatham led 12-2 at the half. When teams take double-digit leads, officials allowed the clock to run even after goals. The Cougars maintained their advantage and substituted liberally as the game progressed. The starters cheered for their teammates intensely. Many of them were thrilled when sophomore Maddy Bowles put in a goal and they nearly went berserk when back up keeper Lauren Spinelli made a stellar save just seconds after entering the game.

Although the Group II title isn’t the ultimate prize, the Cougars weren’t cheated in their enthusiasm to celebrate their hard work and dedication.

Chatham’s Brittany Marriott (48) played stellar defense and had three assists on Thursday.

“I have to hand it to my seniors and my juniors,’’Chatham coach Deb Marriott said. “These girls are just working hard. They love the sport and love the game. I also have to give credit to the coaching staff (Hilary Renna, Christine Cavallo, Meghan Smith, Sue Connors, Paul Garavente). They help these girls work harder every single day.’’

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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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