Chatham celebrates their 8-6 Group 2 champio... Credits: Daniel Eckert
Credits: Daniel Eckert
Robert Guida of Chatham. Credits: Daniel Eckert
David Gill of Chatham looks to receive a pas... Credits: Daniel Eckert
David Gill of Chatham looks to fire a shot o... Credits: Daniel Eckert
Robert Guida of Chatham looks to go to goal ... Credits: Daniel Eckert
David Gill of Chatham celebrates his go-ahea... Credits: Daniel Eckert
Robert Guida of Chatham goes to goal. Credits: Daniel Eckert
Chatham Boys' Lacrosse Team Wins First Group Title in School History with 8-6 Win Over Somerville
Thursday, May 31, 2012 • 1:46am
BASKING RIDGE, NJ – The start was not there, but the finish was. And in the end that is all that mattered as the second ranked Chatham Cougars captured the NJSIAA Group 2 title, their first group championship win ever, by coming back from a two goal deficit in the second half to defeat top ranked Somerville 8-6 on Wednesday evening at Ridge High School.
After three straight years of disappoint in the group finals, including a 7-6 five overtime loss to Summit last year, Chatham finally tasted the glory of a championship by overcoming a 5-3 halftime deficit. They scored the first five goals in the second half in less than a 16 minute span and goaltender Corey Fritts and the rest of the defense stifled Somerville in the final 24 minutes to preserve the victory.
“It feels great; just sticking with the game plan. We were tight early for some unknown reason,” Chatham Head Coach Anthony Calandra said. “We just had to buckle down and re-focus. We knew that we needed to get back real close before the game got to the fourth quarter,” he added.
Chatham was able to do that and more as they looked like a totally different team in the third when the offense connected for three straight goals to give their team the first lead of the contest at 6-5 with 5:08 left in the frame.
Attack Kyle Howard-Johnson hit from the right slot off a nice feed from teammate Thomas Guida to get Chatham on the board in the second half. Less than two minutes later, Paul Hackett scored on a nice individual effort as he muscled past a few Somerville defensemen before connecting.
David Gill, who led his team with two goals and one assist, gave Chatham the lead for good when he lasered a low shot past Somerville goaltender Kyle Lieb.
“It’s unbelievable. Last year was definitely a big motivating factor in this one. Just to come out and get it for the first time in school history for this program is awesome,” Gill commented of the win.
“At halftime we said ‘this could be it.’ We really just stepped up and left everything out on the field. We got hold of the ball (in the second half). We were able to possess it. Moving it around really helped us a lot and we were lucky enough to put a few in,” he added.
A still-precarious one-goal lead at 6-5 for Chatham heading into the fourth was increased by two of the top players on the team in Guida and Sam Carson.
After a Howard-Johnson shot that hit the post, Chatham fought for one of their 20 total groundballs and set up Guida from point blank range who gave the Morris County squad a two goal edge.
Gill then set up Carson’s second goal when the attack bounced in a far shot that found the back of the cage.
“It’s a big thing getting the win finally. In the second half we kind of figured out what we were supposed to do; what would work,” Guida told The Alternative Press. “We finally got the goals started and stopped their transition game, which was big.”
The transition game that Guida was referring to is how Somerville scored four out of their five goals in the first half.
The Chatham offense turned the ball over an uncharacteristic 7 times through the first 24 minutes which allowed Somerville to build a 2-0 lead, a 3-2 lead and their biggest advantage at 5-2 with 3:18 left in the third quarter.
Perhaps the most underrated play of the game came with time winding down in the second half when Somerville gained possession and called a timeout with 42 seconds left in the second quarter.
Junior defenseman Will Weichert forced a Somerville turnover near midfield to set up the Chatham offense in transition. Howard-Johnson found Carson streaking in front as they got to within a couple with 31 seconds left in the opening half.
A glaring player in the second half was Fritts for Chatham. After a bit of a shaky start, he made six saves in the second half.
The first was his best of the game when he robbed Somerville attack Matt Raposo from point blank range when Chatham was still down two to start of the second half.
He made another great stop on Logan LeBlond just before his team gained a three goal advantage midway through the fourth.
“The first save in the second half by Fritts just took a goal right away from them. He played huge in the second half. He had like four point blank shots,” Calandra commented of his goaltender.
“Our defense and Frits played amazing. They’ve been doing it all year. They were great as usual,” Carson added.
Gill scored with 8:43 left in the second quarter to put Chatham on the board, although they still trailed 2-1 at that point. A few minutes later Corey Heidaran bounced in a long shot off a pass from Guida to bring Chatham within one at 3-2.
With the win, Chatham gets the chance to participate in the tournament of champions quarterfinals against an opponent yet to be determined this Saturday at Bridgewater-Raritan High School at a time to be announced.