Chatham wins season opener for new varsity coach Renna

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountylacrosse

CHATHAM – There’s a new head coach and a lot of new faces on the Chatham girls lacrosse team. One thing that hasn’t changed is the result. The Cougars looked sharp in their season opener.

Senior midfielder Mary Kate O’Neill scored seven goals and Lauren Maiorano added four goals in Chatham’s 17-10 triumph over Kent Place on the Haas Field turf on Tuesday.

Maggie O’Neill registered a hat trick and Kristen Maiorano, Maddy Bowles and Kennedy Krauss also connected for goals and senior goalkeeper Hannah Reader made six saves for the Cougars (1-0). Anna Doherty scored four goals and Lauren Oberrander and Orna Madigan had two scores apiece for the Dragons (0-1).

It was also the first varsity victory for Chatham’s new head coach Hilary Renna. The former Mountain Lakes standout and University of Pennsylvania grad has been an assistant at Chatham for three seasons. She takes over for Deb Marriott who resigned a few days after Chatham’s loss to Moorestown in last year’s Tournament of Champions title game.

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Lauren Maiorano and Mary Kate O’Neill (9) embrace after one of O’Neill’s seven goals in Tuesday’s game. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Chatham led the windy, brisk opening day contest throughout. The Cougars built an 8-3 advantage at the half and maintained a lead of four goals or more the rest of the day.

“It feels awesome to get the first win and come out strong,’’ Reader said. “Everyone played really well. It’s a new team but it felt like the same exact routine as previous years.’’

“We’ve been playing for Renna since we’ve been here so she doesn’t feel like a new coach to us,’’ Lauren Maiorano said. “We give her the same respect that we gave Coach Marriott and really nothing has changed. We work hard for whoever we have as coach.’’

There have been subtle changes to how the Cougars do things but nothing too dramatic. Renna’s style complemented Marriott’s over the years.

“I had a really good role model in Deb,’’ Renna said. “I called her just before the game. We stay in contact. … I’m not making any huge different strategy changes. I’ve been involved in the coaching for the last three years so Deb was never doing anything that I was against. We were always on the same page.’’

The Chatham players like the idea that Renna is not too far removed from playing in college and don’t mind hearing about her experiences at Penn. Renna is also probably the Chatham lacrosse program’s first full-time coach. She works for Metro Lacrosse, which is based in Albany, New York and runs about 13 club teams in New York and New Jersey.

“There is a difference in coaching style,’’ O’Neill said. “It is a change but it’s for the better I think. We do a lot of work on defensive concepts and there’s a lot of focus on that in practice. We are a strong defensive team and everyone is embracing it.’’

What might also be a little different is that the Cougars may be allowed to carry more of an edge. After graduation losses of such talented performers as Jaclyn Leto, Kelsey Perselay, Kate Murphy and many others, outsiders might consider Chatham to be in a rebuilding or transition year. Part of Renna’s challenge may include getting the incoming Cougars to believe in themselves and gain confidence.

“We felt that from people in our own town,’’ Maiorano said. “We even felt that from people on our team. They get into the mindset of yes we are all new players on the field but that doesn’t mean anything has to change. We still have the same potential and same goals.’’

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Chatham’s Maddy Bowles launches a shot in first half action on Tuesday. (Photo by Mark Kitchin).

“Our goals for the season haven’t changed at all,’’ O’Neill added. “We have a lot of new faces on the field. I think teams are going to be surprised at who we got and the stuff we are going to pull out of our pockets — new faces, same game.’’

There are five seniors returning to Chatham all with key roles. O’Neill, Maiorana, Reader Kit Whiteman and Ashley Perselay all come into the season with the experience that comes with playing and winning in intense tournament atmosphere.

“Our seniors are doing an awesome job in pumping up the underclassmen and getting them ready to go out on the field,’’ Renna said. “Our motto this year is “New team, same dream’’ so it’s teaching the younger players the same values we’ve always had here at Chatham.’’

Much of the team’s future may rely on how the defense develops around veteran goalkeeper Reader. Losing Callie Farmakis to graduation has been difficult but Natalie Washuta, Casey Madura and Kate Burns have been mixing with veterans Kit Whiteman and Ashley Perselay to make the Cougars formidable on defense.

“Everybody has been playing really well,’’ Reader said. “We’ve had some slip ups but nothing we can’t work with. … For the past three years that I’ve been playing it pretty much has been the same defense.’’

“Hannah is doing a good job of leading them and making everyone feel comfortable out there,’’ Renna said.

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Kent Place’s Allie Rogers tries to place the ball past Chatham goalkeeper Hannah Reader in first half action. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

O’Neill’s scored four goals in the first half to help Chatham get off to a good start. Chatham scored the games first six goals and didn’t surrender a score until Doherty connected for Kent Place with 4:56 left in the half.

“Mary Kate was a top player for us last year,’’ Renna said. “She was on varsity as a freshman. She’s doing a good job leading the rest of the team.’’

Despite a lapse or two, Chatham seemed in control for most of the game. The Cougars focused on scoring goals and not letting some of the Dragons more experienced players (Allie Rogers, Doherty, Oberrander) get on a roll.

“We played with them over the summer,’’ O’Neill said. “We knew they were going to be very potent attackers and difficult players.’’

Kent Place’s best rally came with a 3-goal run near the midway point of the second half. Madigan’s goal at the 7-minute mark cut Chatham’s lead to 13-9.

At that point the Cougars made a switch at faceoff moving O’Neill to pull the draw. Lauren Maiorano captured the draw control and the Cougars eventually set up Bowles with a free position goal at 6:06.

O’Neill, Kennedy Krauss and Morgan Sullivan are all being relied upon to take the draws this season. There isn’t a dramatic physical difference between them. They can switch off for a variety of technical reasons or sometimes they just switch just because it feels right.

“We usually just switch it up if one of us isn’t winning it,’’ O’Neill said. “It just works out with who you are paired up with and who you can win against. We just try to get in the right spot and the girls in the circle were coming up with it.’’

Consecutive goals by O’Neill and Krauss followed to secure the victory and put Chatham in a good frame of mind going into its contest against West Essex later in the week.

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Chatham varsity coach Hilary Renna, left, breaks the halftime huddle with goalie Hannah Reader. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Morris County results

Roxbury 7, Northern Highlands 6, 3OT – Joelle Manganella scored 50 seconds into the overtime to lift the Gaels. Roxbury rallied to tie with 5:11 left in regulation on a Chelsea Artigliere goal. Amanda Beal connected twice for Roxbury.

Morris Catholic 10, Randolph 8 – Tina Nassany scored five goals to pace the Crusaders. Amanda Dezenzo registered a hat trick for the Rams.

Mendham 14, Kinnelon 7 – Devon Russell had five goals and two assists and Gia Padavano and Becky Gohsler notched hat tricks for the Minutemen. Heidi Annaheim had three goals and two assists and Nicole Belanger scored twice for the Colts.

Mountain Lakes 14, West Morris 4 – The Lakers led 10-1 at the half. Jackie Perry scored five goals and Allie LeBeau had three goals and an assist for Mountain Lakes. Sydney Sapir notched a pair of goals for the Wolfpack.

Madison 21, Millburn 6 – Molly Fishter scored five goals and Michelle Montagna had four goals and one assist in the Dodgers’ triumph.

Fair Lawn 8, Pequannock 7 – Jess Rigoglioso scored twice for the Golden Panthers.

Indian Hills 10, Montville 6 – Abby Haimson had four goals and one assist for the Mustangs.

Mahwah 16, Mount Olive 3 – The Marauders drop to 0-1.

Westfield 16, Morris Knolls 4 – The Golden Eagles open the season with a loss.

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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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