Chatham’s sweet season has sour ending

By Mark Kitchin


BRIDGEWATER — Chatham coach Tony Calandra didn’t mince words. As great a season that Chatham boys lacrosse had this spring, its final effort against Ridgewood just didn’t measure up to what the players had accomplished over the course of the year.

“We got outplayed,’’ Calandra said. “They dove for every loose ball. They wanted it more. We didn’t do what we wanted to do throughout the whole first half and dug ourselves a hole that we couldn’t get out of.’’

Owen Smith scored four goals and Cole Miller fired a hat trick to lift Ridgewood to an 11-6 triumph over Chatham in the quarterfinal round of the Tournament of Champions on Saturday on the turf at Basilone Field.

Ridgewood, the sixth seed, will play Don Bosco Prep in Wednesday’s semifinal at Kean University. It is the second consecutive year that the Maroons have eliminated the Cougars in the T of C Quarterfinals.

Thomas Guida scored two goals and Christof Strunc and Sam Carson had a goal and an assist apiece for third-seeded Chatham (19-5).

232 bl st chridThe Cougars captured the Group II title for the second consecutive year but went no further. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

After an opening goal by the Cougars’ Nick Citron, the Maroons scored six consecutive times to close out the first quarter. Try as it might, Chatham couldn’t duplicate the come-from-behind triumph it earned to win the Group II title against Somerville.

“We came out a little slow today like we did the last game,’’ Guida said. “They jumped on us quickly like Somerville did last week. We had a tough time. We thought we could make a comeback. It just didn’t happen.

“We thought we were going to make a run. We made it 6-3. Then they had two quick in a row and then after that it kind of sank in that it wasn’t going to happen. We just ran out of time.’’

One of the reasons was because of Ridgewood netminder Noah Pounds. Considered the state’s top goalie, the Naval Academy-bound keeper made 13 saves in all. He made nearly all the routine stops and also corralled some of the more difficult offerings the Chatham shooters fired at him.

272 bl st chridA Chatham player goes airborne to pounce on a ground ball on Saturday. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

“Noah is a great goalie,’’ Guida said. “I’ve played with him a few times before. There isn’t much you can do. You can’t find a weakness on him. We planned on shooting from about 12 yards out. It didn’t really work. He was seeing everything tonight.’’

Despite their talented keeper, the Maroons never believed the Cougars would give in. Ridgewood capitalized on Chatham turnovers, especially in the first half. Cougars’ talented face-off specialist Trip Connors won the majority of the second-half draws but could not help his teammates get on enough of a roll to catch up.

“They are hard working,’’ Smith said. “They know how to shoot. They know how to work. We just hustled harder than they did today. Things just went our way.’’

284 bl st chridChatham players climb all over a Ridgewood opponent to get at a loose ball. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Guida scored his first goal on a David Gill feed to start the second quarter but Ridgewood’s Miller matched it to make it 7-2 at halftime. Ridgewood maintained a cushion of at least five goals for most of the second half, much to the chagrin of the raucous and devoted Chatham fans that gave their heroes a standing ovation at the end despite the tough loss.

The senior class was the first to be coached all four years by Calandra and it was a special group. Its accomplishments include a pair of Group II state titles and the first trip to the Morris County Tournament title game in school history. It’s that legacy that lifted the level of expectation and made Saturday’s performance and result so disappointing.

“They have made big strides,’’ Calandra said. “Back-to-back group two titles are nothing to shake a stick at. I think it’s a great accomplishment. We’re looking for the big prize. We wanted to finish playing our best. We said if we get beat playing our best, we will accept it. We didn’t play our best. It was far from our best. Give them credit. They went out and took the game.’’

331 bl st chridChatham coach Tony Calandra implores his players to wake up during a first-quarter timeout. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)


About mcvbb

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

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