CHATHAM _ When it comes to soccer, a little desire makes all the difference.
Chatham discovered that after its come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Randolph in the opening round of Morris County Tournament girls soccer on Saturday, Sept. 30.
Caroline Crouse and Sophia Reed connected for the Cougars. Sixth-seeded Chatham (6-3) advanced to play third-seeded West Morris in the quarterfinals on Sunday, Oct. 8. Karen Hull scored a first-half goal for 11th-seeded Randolph.
Chatham was determined and was able to match the Rams' physicality. The Cougars also prevailed despite a terrific performance by Randolph goalkeeper Ellie Sciancelepore, who made eight saves and stopped a penalty kick opportunity by Chatham late in the first half that would have put the Cougars ahead by halftime.
"They really have a fighting spirit,'' Chatham coach Gary Adair said of his squad. "They understand that there are going to be moments in games where you may give a goal away like we did in the first five minutes but it is not the end of the world if you just have a bit more fight and a bit more drive. They showed it today.''
Chatham defeated Randolph 3-0 in a regular-season game but the Rams have a history of doing well in the MCT even in seasons when they struggle. The Cougars showed that they had enough talent and tenacity to overcome the bigger school squad.
"People outside of our team think we are the underdog sometimes,'' Crouse said. "We have some good players. That has helped a lot.''
Crouse scored the equalizer with 4:18 left in the first half with a righty shot to make it 1-1.
"It was a really good cross,'' the junior forward said. "It was kind of easy. I just tried to place it well. It was a pretty easy shot. I was on the six. I first timed it about waist high.''
The teams battled well into the second half with both squads getting opportunities but not converting on their chances. Chatham was most concerned with Randolph's speed up front. Hull is one of the county's top sprinters and sophomore Lauren Robles has quick legs and had a few scoring opportunities that didn't miss by much. Chatham defenders Meredith Enslow, Frances Workman and Olivia Robertson always had to be on their guard.
"We just knew if they are quick you can't dive in,'' Reed said. "So we just tried to keep our distance from her and play smart. If you have a chance to win it just win it.''
Chatham secured the win on a scramble situation in the penalty area. Reed, a senior forward, connected with a right-footed shot with about 9:45 left, she was immediately mobbed by her happy teammates.
"It was definitely a mess,'' Reed said. "I worked hard to try and get in good position to get the ball unfortunately Jen Olnowich just got it stuck in her legs. She is a sophomore and she is really aggressive. It just happened to pop out a little bit. There were so many people around. The goalie was out of the net and I tried to position myself so I could get whatever came out.''
It wasn't a picturesque goal but even the ugly goals count in tournament play and good teams often get their share of ugly scores.
"The final goal wasn't the prettiest of goals but it shows the desire to win a game,'' Adair said. "It's impressive and I'm pleased for them that we are going in the right direction.''
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