Maiorano scored the deciding penalty kick and goalkeeper teammate Morgan Maltby made a winning save in Chatham's 1-1 (6-5 shootout) triumph over Mendham in North Jersey Section 2, Group III state tournament play on Mendham's turf field.
The victory advances Chatham to play West Morris in the sectional semifinal on Monday, Nov. 7. West Morris toppled Parsippany Hills 1-0 to guarantee that Morris County will have one team in the sectional final.
The Minutemen (15-5-1) received a second-half goal from senior forward Jamie Hofstetter. Hofstetter connected on two penalty-kick opportunities and Carley Horan, Emily Dean and Alex Young also hit their PK attempts for the Minutemen. This is the second consecutive year that Mendham has been eliminated from state play in a shootout. The Minutemen were ousted by Millburn last year.
Jaclyn Leto scored a second-half goal for the Cougars (12-7-4). It was the second time this season the Cougars have earned a tournament road victory due to penalty kicks. They advanced past Roxbury in the opening round of the Morris County Tournament in similar fashion.
Maggie Higgins knocked in two penalty kicks. Kelsey Burke, Liz Hyde and Emily Hoffman also put in goals during the shootout round for Chatham.
Maiorano opened up the shootout and her first attempt soared far right. As her teammates kept knocking in goals, she burned at the chance to try again.
"I'm usually confident in taking those PKs,'' Maiorano said. "I always volunteer for them but, after missing the first one, I didn't know what to do next. When we went into sudden death PKs, I knew that I wasn't going to let that (miss) be my last shot of the season.''
It took a Mendham miss to give Maiorano another chance.
"Oh my gosh,'' Maiorano said. "After that, I knew everything was going to fall into place. I knew our kickers were going to hit them and we had Morgan in goal.''
A Mendham miss allowed the first round of penalty kicks to end in a 4-4 tie. The second round commenced in a sudden-victory format. Teams did have the option of switching shooters or changing the shot order after the first round of kicks. Higgins knocked in her second PK before Mendham's Hofstetter answered to tie the round, 5-5. Then Maiorano had her chance. This time ,she put the ball in the back of the net with a shot to the right side to make it 6-5.
"That took a lot,'' Chatham coach Chris Calveley said. "For her to do that, to show the character to do that and to step up that way was unbelievable. It takes a very, very strong person to do that. And, she wasn't nervous. She was confident and she struck it beautifully.''
Chatham won it a minute or two later when Maltby stopped Mendham standout Carley Horan. Some goalies dread dealing with shootout pressure but Maltby appears to love it. She winks and smiles at her opponents, does jumping jacks and stretches her arms and legs out as much as she can to make her look large in the net in hopes of intimidating a shooter.
"She's an enigma,'' Calveley said. "She's quite a character. She just stepped up today. She remembers things and she reads the approach of the players very well.''
The last time she was in a shootout, she admitted to thinking about rubber ducks in order to keep from being nervous. Her random thoughts continued to be bathtime oriented this time around.
"I thought about bubbles, lots of soap bubbles,'' Maltby said.
However, Maltby also had enough poise to remember Horan's first PK chance. When it comes to the shootout, kickers are creatures of habit. They usually focus on the shot they feel most comfortable with and hate to change it.
"The girl basically kicked it in the same spot,'' Maltby said. "This is a good team and I thought some of the kickers might try to change it up but I thought she would go there.''
A controversial play nearly ended the contest before the shootout round. Hofstetter hit a shot that appeared to be a gamewinner near the end of the first 10-minute overtime. Minutemen players and coaches argued that her hard, tight angle shot hit inside the low left corner of the goal where a tire that serves to move the mobile soccer net is located before bouncing back out. However, officials did not blow the whistle or recognize it as a goal. Chaos commenced as some Mendham players celebrated while Chatham athletes played on, believing the ball bounced off the left goalpost itself.
Overall, the contest was extremely competitive throughout. Although the teams haven't played each other this year, there was plenty of familiarity. Both squads are filled with lacrosse athletes that were more than happy to renew the rivalries of spring while competing in another sport.
There were also some very interesting in-game matchups. Mendham's Sarah Gillespie gave Chatham's talented midfielder Lina Proska fits. Gillespie's efforts at denying her opponent the ball limited the Cougar playmaker's opportunities. Mendham's standout sophomore scorer Young was given her own torture test to take. Cougars' Erin Terry was the one that regularly seemed to give her the most grief. Despite those worthy defensive efforts, the playmakers for both teams figured in the scoring.
The regulation goals came within a minute of each other. In the 48th minute, Young made a run down the left side and crossed the ball to Hofstetter who had open space on the breakaway. Her goal from about 12 yards out gave the Minutemen reason to cheer but their joy was short-lived. Chatham tied the game when Leto knocked in Proska's deflected shot on a breakaway just 48 seconds later.
"Lina had been working hard the whole game and she finally got an opportunity to break free,'' Leto said. "She hit it low to the goalie and (Mendham's Faith Sugerman) made the save and deflected it and I just tried to knock it in because the goalie was out of position.''
Chatham's resiliency in the face of defeat is one of the reason the Cougars have had such a thrilling season.
"We did the same thing yesterday (in a 2-1 overtime win over Cranford),'' Calveley said. "The other team scored first and we came right back at them. It's almost like they get angry and they never give up. It's such a great attribute of this group. We have nothing to fear at all from anyone we face from now on. It's exciting.''
Overall, Mendham had the better of the scoring chances with the best probably being a blast by Megan Byrne that Maltby tipped over the crossbar in the 60th minute for one of her seven saves.
The two 10-minute overtimes were very active with both teams squeezing off shot opportunities. Many thought the game was over after one Mendham effort near the end of the first OT.
There was utter confusion on the field when the Minutemen's shot hit somewhere between the left goalpost and the tire which is low and outside the net but about a foot deep and close enough to deflect a ball back into play when hit at the right angle. Some Mendham players were celebrating while others on both teams seemed confused. Maltby, who truly may have only seen the carom because of the sharp strike, just scooped the ball up and quickly tried to get the attention of a teammate to roll the ball out to her and keep the game going.
"It hit the post and it bounced out,'' Maltby said. "I didn't think it hit the wheel. I don't even remember what happened. I just remember the ball hit the post and I saw them celebrating and we just kept going.''
The result of the play added some fuel to Chatham's fortitude.
"I think we just took it as we got a second chance,'' Maiorano said. "Second chances don't come that easily and we were really fortunate to even hold that team to the overtimes. We have a great goalie and I was totally confident with her and penalty kicks and it all fell into place.''
Some fatigue set in to slow the play a bit in the second overtime as everyone braced for the shootout. Chatham doesn't practice the shootout much or have a set list of players to take them. The athletes that feel strong and confident enough just raise their hands to be considered. The team decides and puts its faith in the ones that want to take them. That belief worked in their favor and the Cougars hope it sparks them for the rest of the tournament.
"I'm so proud of this bunch,'' Calveley said. "They never give up. Even when we go down, we fight right back again. They work themselves so hard together. It's unbelievable.
"We didn't want the season to end today. We just didn't want it to end.''
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