It was the type of game in which Chatham High School (N.J.) Girls’ lacrosse head coach Helen McCutcheon-Oliver said she had expected against a loaded Oak Knoll squad: a tooth and nail battle to the end.
Unfortunately for the Cougars (13-4), they came out on the losing end of a hotly contested 9-8 affair to the Royals (15-4) Thursday afternoon at Hass Field to end the regular season.
“I wish we weren’t in this position four times this season,” McCutcheon-Oliver said of dropping its only four games to the top three teams (Morristown twice, Summit and Oak Knoll) within a two-mile radius of Chatham High School.
“They were all one goal games,” she added. “What this proves is that we complete at the highest level, we bring our absolute best, and with our division, and the fact that the four TOC (Tournament of Champions) teams in the state of last year we played in the regular season, just proves that our level of competition is above and beyond, literally, anybody else.”
McCutcheon-Oliver, however, took solace in the fact that the Cougars grinded and hustled throughout, and said that they need to have short term memory loss with the start less than 18 hours away.
“I’m proud of the girls. It was a hard-fought game,” she said. “But we were very close, and we’ve been this close (two fingers gesturing an inch) four times now. It’s hard, but the state tournament starts tomorrow.”
Chatham trailed 2-0 after 5:19 seconds of the first half. But seniors Ashley Kiernan and Maddie Engelkraut each found the back of the net to even the score at 2-2 with 17:09 left in the first half.
Junior Addison Barrett recorded her first tally of the tilt, giving the Cougars a 3-2 lead with 16:18 remaining in the half. However, Oak Knoll scored three unanswered goals to take a 5-3 advantage with 9:19 to go in the half.
In true fashion of the type of game Chatham played, the white and blue warriors came roaring back, pouring in two more markers, with sophomore Grace Hallahan scoring the game-tying goal at 5-5 with a little more than five minutes before the break.
The Royals took the lead at 6-5 before the Cougars fought back again, recording two markers (Kiernan and senior Jane Middleton) to surge ahead, 7-6, with 13:27 remaining in the contest.
But Oak Knoll knotted the tilt at 7-7 with 10:31 to go in the game. The Royals proceeded to tack on two more goals to take a 9-7 advantage 5:15 left in the affair.
Barrett, who enjoyed a terrific performance, added her second tally of the tilt to slice the deficit to one with 2:21 to go in the game.
However, the Royals’ defense went into lockdown mode to preserve the lead and eventual victory.
Kiernan led all players with five points, while Oak Knoll’s Sophia Loschert registered a team-best four points on four tallies.
Top seeded Chatham hosts Milburn tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. is the first round of the NJSIAA North Jersey, Group 3 lacrosse tournament.
— Jerry Del Priore
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