Connors’ faceoff prowess helps Chatham outlast Madison

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountylacrosse

CHATHAM – UpDownUpDownUpDownUpDownUpDown! The head of Tripp Connors lacrosse stick danced over the top of the lacrosse ball with mechanical — make that maniacal — precision. It seemed to move faster the longer he practiced with it while kneeling on the Chatham turf.

Would anyone on Madison be able to take the lacrosse ball away from him on the draw on Saturday? It wasn’t likely. He admitted he was focused and in a zone.

Connors won 9 of his first 10 draws to help Chatham build a 5-0 first-quarter advantage and eventually an 11-7 triumph on the turf at Cougar Field.

Senior attackman Sam Carson fired a hat trick and David Gill and Nick Citron registered two goals and one assist each for the unbeaten Cougars. Thomas Guida also had a pair of goals for Chatham (3-0).

A.J. Schmitz scored three times and Christian Scarpello had two goals and two assists for the Dodgers (2-1). Madison rallied late to make the game competitive after falling behind 5-0 midway through the first quarter. The Dodgers closed to within 7-4 at the half but the Cougars scored the first three goals of the third quarter and maintained a sizable margin for the rest of the contest.

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Tripp Connors kept Chatham on top by winning numerous draws and giving the Cougars possessions. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Connors — who won 18 of 22 on the day — influenced the game throughout, helping to nourish the Cougars offense with consistent possessions while sapping the strength of the Madison defense. Every time it looked as if the Dodgers were going to make a run, there was the ball nestled in Connors’s pocket once again.

“We look to end the teams early,’’ Connors said. “It’s not just me. My wingmen do a huge job, too. Once the team gets on a roll, everything just falls into place.’’

Gill and Dan Winschuh are the primary wing men for the Cougars. They easily picked up most of the balls that Connors didn’t keep for himself. Many of them were well-placed giving the Chatham midfield a clean transition to the offensive end.

“He’s really amazing,’’ Gill said. “It’s really easy being his wingman. This year he’s winning a lot more himself. ’’

While most faceoff men specialists guard their moves and plans like they were the combination to the gold vault at Forth Knox, there’s no secret to what Connors tries to do. It is pure speed and quickness, not only of hands and wrist but also of decisions.

“I prefer speed over strength,’’ Connors said. “If I can get to it first it doesn’t matter how strong my opponent is. I can win the ball. … I can sense what a guy is going to do by the angle he takes and the way he positions himself. I don’t have to react to him. I can make those changes.’’

The Hamilton College bound athlete is a savior on both the offensive and defensive end. Winning possessions for the offense gives the Chatham defense a rest. His draws can also help kill penalties. One of his winning draws was used to knock off a two-minute non-releasable Chatham stick penalty for a deep pocket.

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Sam Carson (19) and Chet McLaughlin (4) celebrate one of Chatham’s five first-quarter goals. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Connors’ faceoff prowess was instrumental in helping Chatham build a 5-0 first-quarter advantage. His wins built momentum for the team that poured in goal after goal in the early going. It was the second consecutive game that the Cougars had gotten off to such a dynamic start.

“It was like Mendham,’’ midfielder David Gill said. “We got off really quick. We were really motivated and focused.’’

Carson scored off a Citron feed just 36 seconds into the game. Eight seconds later Citron scored an unassisted goal to make it 2-0. Over the first seven minutes the Cougars would build a 5-0 margin. Three of them would come from Carson, who notched a hat trick on an unassisted scored with 5:09 left in the first period.

Carson’s effort was sensational considering that the basketball season kept him from some of Chatham’s March lacrosse practices. It doesn’t seem to have bothered him at all.

“He has more of a complete game this year,’’ Gill said. “He can move to his right or left equally well. In our offense he really cuts and moves off the ball. He’s good at drawing the slides and getting guys open,’’

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Chatham’s Dan Winschuh sprints down field but Madison defenders are in hot pursuit. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

The Chatham offense looked as potent as ever. It is a good mix of dodgers and shooters. However, once the initial adrenalin wore off, the negative effect of opening up such a big lead early showed in the form of some needless penalties and sloppy play.

Chatham led 6-1 at the end of the first quarter and 7-4 at the half. Two of the goals came in man advantage situations. A Schmitz scored with a minute left in the half made it a 3-goal game.

However, the Cougars scored the first three goals of the second half. Carson scored a crazy goal 13 seconds into the third quarter when he stuffed in a shot while falling backwards near the crease to make it 8-4. A thrilling breakaway goal by Citron off a Gill feed at 8:09 and a righty shot by Thomas Guida at 6:15 followed to make it a 10-4 game.

Madison scored three of the next four goals but it was too much of a deficit to overcome. The win puts Chatham in a confident frame of mind going into Tuesday’s game against Delbarton in a battle of Morris County heavyweights.

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Madison tried to rally in the second half but the early deficit was too much for the Dodgers. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Morris County results

Delbarton 7, St. Anthony’s (NY) 3 – Grant VanFossen scored four goals to lift the Green Wave past the Long Island powerhouse. Jordan Dowiak, Tommy Fowler, Matt Killian and Kevin Lewis added goals for Delbarton. The Green Wave pulled away with a 4-2 second half effort.

Mount Olive 10, Mendham 8 – The Marauders improve to 3-0. Chris Sanchez had three goals and three assists, Eric Weiss had two goals and two assists and Anthony Verrone had two goals and one assist for Mount Olive. The Marauders rallied from an 8-6 deficit with four consecutive fourth-quarter goals.

Pequannock 13, Park Regional 2 – The Golden Panthers led 10-0 at the half. Tyler Macejka had five goals and three assists, Ryan VanBochoven scored four goals and Liam Lillenthal had two goals and three assists for Pequannock.

Randolph 10, Morris Knolls 9 – Keven Terebecke scored four goals and Stefan Tamminga had a hat trick for the Rams (1-2). Jared Huston had two goals and one assist and Jon Engels and Jess Kopecky added two goals each for the Golden Eagles (1-2).

Mountain Lakes 6, Montclair 2 – Christian Cuccinello’s 4-goal effort paced the Lakers offensively. Brad Smith and Chris Sammaro added scores for the Lakers (2-0).

Morristown-Beard 8, Oratory Prep 7 – John McDonald broke the tie with 3:37 left and the Crimson held on for the triumph. Thomas Rago had three goals and one assist and McDonald had a pair of goals for Morristown-Beard. The Crimson led 6-2 at the half.

West Morris 11, Wayne Hills 1 – Matt Carfaro scored five goals and Matt Pruss fired a hat trick for the Wolfpack. Kevin Reidinger added two goals and two assists for West Morris.

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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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