MONTVILLE _ Chatham girls lacrosse will always remember the 2015 Morris County Tournament championship as the game they won twice.
Tournament Most Valuable Player Bridget Ballard connected with 28 seconds left in double overtime to lift Chatham to a 7-6 victory over defending champion Mountain Lakes on Saturday, May 9 on the turf at Montville High School.
Zoe Kraus added two goals and Maggie O'Neill and Emily Wingate also tallied for the top-seeded Cougars. Ballard scored three goals, including her 100th varsity goal, earlier in the game. It is the second MCT title for Chatham in four years.
"It feels amazing," Chatham coach Hilary Renna said. "If any team deserves to win a championship, it's this group of girls. They are so selfless and team centered. All they care about is the team and the person next to them. No one is looking out for themselves only. It's awesome that they can win it because they really do deserve it."
The victory was sweet revenge for the Cougars, who were defeated by the Lakers 13-6 in last year's MCT final.
"It's awesome," senior defender Julia DiSalvio said. "We could still hear their screams from last year. We came into this game knowing we wanted to win this game. We wanted to get our name on the banner in the gym and we are just so excited to win and everyone played so amazing."
Sarah Bedard and Rachel Treweeke scored two goals each and Hannah Cronk and Charley Orner also scored for second-seeded Mountain Lakes.
Treweeke tied the game at 6-6 on a short-handed goal with 3:24 left in regulation. Chatham had possession of the ball in the final minute and appeared to have won the game with five seconds left on a strong drive by Ballard, a junior midfielder, but a charging call nullified the goal.
"We were so mad," Ballard said. "We came out here wanting it so bad. We got two wins tonight basically. ... I got pushed in the back by another girl but it happened so fast, But we won, so it's fine.''
The Cougars showed plenty of poise and were tenacious in the overtime period.
"I told them that we had just won the game," Renna said. "That was the game-winning goal that they took back. Now we just had to go and win it again. They had to play with their hearts - leave everything out on the field and I told them that I knew they could do it."
The teams played two three-minute overtime periods, which included stellar saves by the Cougars' Gislina Saul. A turnover caused by stellar defensive work by Julia DiSalvio gave the Cougars possession of the ball in the final minute of the second overtime. DiSalvio was able to stick check the ball off of Treweeke and then position her body so the Lakers' standout would be called for pushing her while trying to recover it.
"It was the best ground ball I had ever gotten in 10 years of lacrosse," DiSalvio said. "I was really excited and really glad that Bridget could take it in and get that goal. It was a great feeling."
Ballard's game-winning goal was from around the eightmeter mark with time running down. When she hit the unassisted score, she was swamped by her teammates. Then they had to regain their composure because the overtime was not sudden victory and Mountain Lakes could still come back.
"I don't even remember how I did it," Ballard said of the goal. "It was a lucky shot basically."
Her coach and teammates will remember it forever.
"The did a really good job in the last play of regular time and the overtime play," Renna said. "They were composed on defense. They weren't stressed out. They just played good solid defense, got the ball back, smartly moving it up the field, going hard to goal and executing."
Ballard then won the draw control on the face-off and Chatham maintained possession to the final second.
The contest was close throughout. The teams were tied 3-3 at the half and 4-4 at the 19-minute mark. Both teams played great defense. When Bedard scored her second goal, Chatham opted to send Alex Frenzel to face-guard Bedard and step up their defense. Defenders like DiSalvio, Kate Burns and Beth Kuyk and goalie Gislana Saul were successful for checking a very efficient Lakers offense for much of the second half.
"We knew that we had to keep our feet moving on everyone and be focused and be ready for the help," DiSalvio said.
Chatham pulled ahead 5-4 on a Kraus goal off a feed from Abby Morgan with 18:55 remaining.
The Cougars extended their advantage on Ballard's 100th career goal. It was an awkward flip as she cut across the crease with 16:42 left. She didn't see the ball go in.
"I'd always hope to reach 100 goals," Ballard said. "I'm so happy. I didn't even know it went in. I just flicked it in. I was pretty excited."
The Lakers showed the heart of a champion and rallied to tie the game. Orner's unassisted score at 14:46 made it 6-5. The teams battled back and forth for the next 10 minutes. Mountain Lakes was saved twice by a couple of amazing stops by goalkeeper Julie Krupnick. It looked like they were doomed when one of their players earned a yellow card with 5:06 remaining but a Hannah Cronk interception helped set up Treweeke for a short-handed goal with 3:24 remaining.
The tie set up the drama that followed. After the final whistle and trophy presentations, the Cougars lingered on the Montville field long after they started turning off the lights. They didn't want to come off.
"It's the best feeling, especially after coming off of last year," Ballard said. "To be able to get revenge on them is incredible."