Chatham girls ready for title defense; Kinnelon tops WMC

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountylacrosse

CHATHAM — They may have taken a mid-season detour but the Chatham Cougars have gotten back on track at just the right time. The Morris County Tournament defending champions advanced to the semifinal round with a 17-4 rout of Morris Knolls on Tuesday.

Kristen Maiorano scored five goals and Kennedy Krauss had a hat trick for the third-seeded Cougars (6-7). Haleigh Schroth and Jamie Chapman scored twice for the sixth-seeded Golden Eagles (4-13) in the game played on the Haas Field turf.

Chatham will play Mendham in a rematch of last year’s title game. They will appear in the first game of the doubleheader will start at 5 p.m. at Roxbury High School.

The Cougars led 9-4 at halftime and then completely shut down the Golden Eagles attack the rest of the way.

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Chatham’s Ashley Perselay (14) looks to clear but Morris Knolls’ Jacie Cooper (8) stands in her way. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

During most of the contest, Chatham had long and successful offensive possessions and its defense rose to the challenge anytime Morris Knolls mustered an attack. As a result Chatham is more than happy to defend its title and get another chance to play Mendham.

“This year we are really pumped to bring it back,’’ Reader said. “We have a great team, just as good as last year. We are going to come out strong and be ready for any competitor coming against us. I’m confident that we will do great in the tournament games.’’

A few losses and a higher seed does not concern many of the Cougars who played on last year’s title team. In fact, some may try to turn that situation to their advantage.

“It only makes us work harder to beat who ever we are up against,’’ attack Kristen Maiorano said. “It gives us an advantage that maybe we will work harder to win every game.’’

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Draw controls are the specialty of Chatham’s Kristen Maiorano. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

It hasn’t been the easiest of seasons for the Cougars, which adjusted well to new first-year varsity coach Hilary Renna. They have played a challenging schedule and the loss of top scorer Mary Kate O’Neill to a season-ending ankle injury put their season in a tailspin.

“She was a big part of our offense,’’ Reader said. “With her being out we had to focus on everyone stepping up, everyone not just relying on Mary Kate to run the offense. Everybody has been doing an awesome job.’’

Lauren Maiorano has largely fulfilled O’Neill’s role but she’s been getting a lot of help and support.

“Everyone knew that they had to step into a bigger role than they had been before,’’ Kristen Maiorano said. “We made sure that we couldn’t rely on just one person. Everyone had to take a bigger part in the offense.’’

The Cougars made the adjustment to her loss during a very difficult part of the season. They suffered consecutive losses to Mendham, St. Anthony’s of Long Island, Summit and Mountain Lakes during the stretch. It was against the previously unbeaten Lakers — an overtime loss — that they were feeling as if they were getting out of their slump.

“We were struggling,’’ Reeder said. “It took a lot of work and a lot of effort. We practiced some nights until 6 p.m. We played well against Mendham and St. Anthony’s even though we lost. We had a tough loss against Mountain Lakes but we got some of our confidence back.’’

The Cougars believe they have been getting better transition play lately. Krauss, Bridget Ballard, Lauren Maiorano and others have been able to move the ball up field quickly to create better scoring opportunities for the team.

“A lot of it is instinct,’’ Reader said. “We know where everyone is going to be. It was tougher earlier in the year when we had a lot of new people. Now everything is clicking.’’

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Chatham’s Lauren Maiorano looks for a teammate while Morris Knolls’ Courtney Meola matches her step for step. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

The Cougars feel back on track with consecutive wins over Westfield, and Jefferson and Morris Knolls in the MCT. Another reason has been good draw play by a number of athletes, specifically Krauss, who excelled against Morris Knolls on Tuesday.

“We just played our game,’’ Maiorano said. “We focused on trying to win the draw controls and do the little things we do to control every game.’’

Kelcie Ehler and Morgan Sullivan have also been used in the center of the circle. Krauss was effective at pulling the ball where hungry teammates could snag it. She was particularly successful on Schroth who outmuscles some opponents. Kristen Maiorano took advantage of Krauss’ efforts and won numerous draw controls.

“Kennedy is really strong,’’ Maiorano said. On every practice we have a drill on draw control. I just focus on making every ball mine. If it’s there, we’d just take it I guess.’’

Chatham seemed to get what they needed outdueling Schroth and Chapman, maintaining possessions and getting off good shot attempts. The offense has been getting a good balance. Eight different players contributed to the attack on Tuesday.

The Cougars defense wasn’t challenged often. When it was Reader, the team’s veteran netminder and Chatham’s deep defense were ready for it. Kit Whiteman, Ashley Perselay, Casey Madura and Natalie Washuta compose an experienced defensive unit. Whiteman and Perselay are especially adept as shutdown defenders.

“They are both quick,’’ Maiorana said. “They really know what they are doing back there.’’

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Chatham’s Alex Frenzel got her name in the scoring column on Tuesday. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Morris County Results

Mountain Lakes 16, Villa Walsh 4

The Lakers took control early and led 12-1 at the half. The top-seeded Lakers will face Kinnelon in the second game of Thursday’s semifinal doubleheader at Roxbury High School. The eighth-seeded Vikings dropped to 11-3 on the season. The win lifts the Lakers to 12-1.

Kinnelon 14, West Morris 13

Virginia Annaheim scored twice including the game-winning goal late in the contest. Heidi Annaheim scored six goals and Nicole Belanger had five assists for the fifth-seeded Colts (5-9). Paige Burton had three goals and two assists for the fourth-seeded Highlanders (4-10).

Mendham 19, Morristown 4

Christine Graziano scored seven goals and Gia Padavano had five goals and four assists to lift the second-seeded Minutemen. Mendham took control early and posted a 14-1 halftime score. Christie Long contributed four assists for Mendham (10-4). Allie Ferrara scored twice for 10th-seeded Morristown (10-3). Mendham faces Chatham in a semifinal battle of last year’s finalists on Thursday in the 5 p.m. game of the double-header.

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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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