BOONTON _ Chatham's Emmy Chazen barked out instructions before inserting the ball off a corner play with no time remaining in the Morris County Field Hockey Tournament Final.
Get your sticks down. Nothing goes out of the circle. Be scrappy. We got this.
The Cougars heeded the senior defender's instructions and readied themselves to capitalize on the corner, their eighth of the game. Chazen was right on when she assured her teammates of success.
Chazen sent the ball in and Keira McManus took a shot. Chazen, positioned on the left post, noticed "a wide-open goal and ripped it in," boosting third-seeded Chatham to a 2-1 victory over No. 4 Madison and its third consecutive MCT title.
"Winning tonight is truly amazing," said Chazen, named the offensive MVP. "I don't think many people thought we could do it. It shows how strong our program is and how it'll be in the future. We've got more and more girls coming and we'll just get better."
Another senior, defender/midfielder Laura Lamanna, was elated by the win that came off what she considered "a perfect corner."
"I think that this is really, really crazy," Lamanna said. "I expected overtime. I was mentally preparing for it. Getting three in a row is a good feeling. We lost to Madison before on our Cougar Night. All of our teams play on that day and the student section comes. We wanted to win badly today because of that. We were cohesive tonight and worked together."
A united effort was required because the Cougars, anxious for revenge against their neighboring school, had to rally and they did. A duo of freshmen, Celia Stuart and Lindsay Catchpole, combined for the goal that gave the Dodgers a 1-0 edge 5:34 after halftime. Catchpole passed to Stuart, who completed the scoring play.
Three minutes into the fourth quarter, Madison swarmed the Chatham circle and goalcage, firing off three shots. All, however, were repelled by the Cougars' defense led by Chazen, Lamanna and goalie Georgia Lee, another freshman. Over the course of the game, Chatham's "D" had to contend with 12 corners and turned in a fine performance.
"We saw the films and knew what to expect," Lamanna, the flyer, said of the corners. "We had to run our hardest. Everyone did a great job. Fiona (McSweeney) was our trail."
Chatham, which graduated 12 seniors from its 2022 title squad, pulled even, 1-1, in the closing quarter when Allie McCaffrey put the ball across the goal line with 8:22 remaining. The assist was by Kitty Garrett.
Following more fast-paced, back-and-forth action, the Cougars were awarded the corner that led to the decisive goal followed by the triumphant team celebrating in front of then next to the goalcage.
"The girls were determined," said Kaitlin Leyden, in her ninth season as Chatham's head coach. "Losses make you more inclined to want to win. We were considered the underdog and that made us not want to lose.
"Our seniors are pretty seasoned and understand pressure situations. Still, it's never easy. There's no room for nerves. We wanted the 'W.' After the Madison goal, our players' heads were up and I heard everyone saying 'Stay positive.' We were really motivated."
It was the fifth title overall for the Cougars, who also came out on top in the 1978 and 2010 finals. A 32-year drought preceded their second crown. The championship in 2010 was attained in dramatic fashion, just like the most recent one, as Chatham prevailed, 3-2, in overtime against four-time defending champion Madison on a hat trick by sweeper Sarah Tompson.
The Dodgers, whose last MCT final appearance was in 2018, were pleased despite the loss.
"Our players should definitely be proud," Madison coach Sarah Morano said. "It's a huge accomplishment to make it here. This was great preparation for the state tournament. We had some opportunities but needed to capitalize. Chatham is a great team. They had some chances and made the best of them."
Standouts for the Dodgers included Sophia Modi, named the defensive MVP, and Anna Stuart. Modi provided a spark and created plays while Stuart held down the middle, interrupting plays and setting up her teammates.
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