Chatham Lacrosse Season Preview: Cougars' Look to Balance Returning Experience and Fresh Faces

The Chatham Cougars have been a state power in the NJILL’s Fitch-Pitt Division for quite some time. Last season was no different, making it to the Group 3 Finals before falling in a heartbreaker to Shawnee. The Cougars were one of the toughest teams to play in the state all season long, stringing together one gutsy performance after another en route to a 16-7 record and a North Jersey Group 3 Sectional Title. Coach Christian Scarpello is back to lead this group once again, and the Premier Lacrosse League player has high hopes for what his team can accomplish this season.

Chatham lost a lot of production from last season, including 133 of their 202 total goals scored. Losing players like Luke Barbera (34 goals), Flynn Decker (31 goals), and Doyle (31 goals) and Ronan Curry (17 goals) on the offensive end will surely hurt, but Virginia-bound and 2nd Team All-State midfielder JP Lagunowich (35 goals) returning alongside senior attackman Charlie Lowe (19 goals) will keep experienced firepower in this lineup. Two names to watch flanking these two will be sophomore Shep Boyd, who returns after scoring three goals during his freshman season, and freshman Nick Lagunowich, the younger brother of JP. This unit has a lot of chemistry and potential already through opening practices and scrimmages, and as this young unit gets time against the best in the state they will continue to improve. Manning the draw will be sophomore Colton Walsh, who came on later last season as a freshman and had a good outing against Shawnee in the group final. He will be expected to carry the load and Coach Scarpello was sure to point out all the work he’s put in during the offseason.

The defense took a hit as Brendan Boyd has moved on to Muhlenberg College, but the two that anchored that defense with him, junior Lochlan Mahoney and senior Carter Newman, are back to hold it down. On top of two/thirds of the starting defense, LSMs Owen Irish and Thomas Hung return for their senior seasons. One of the biggest losses was stalwart goalie Jac Dimaculangan and his sparkling 65% save percentage. Taking over for him is senior Henry Davenport, who has looked good through the Cougars scrimmages and has a great defense surrounding him.

Chatham will go through the gauntlet this season, and it starts immediately. They open the season on Tuesday against Pope John, take on Marin Catholic (CA) on Thursday who are in town for their spring break, and end the week on Saturday against Seton Hall Prep. They may have the toughest closing stretch in the state, taking on Summit, Delbarton, Westfield, Mountain Lakes, Darien (CT), and Ridgewood in their last six. With a younger look this season, the Cougars need to be at their best from start to finish. That hasn’t been an issue so far, taking down Bernards in a scrimmage to go with a hard fought overtime loss to St. Augustine Prep. 

The story of the season may be the brothers Lagunowich. JP is a legitimate candidate for state player of the year and will want to make some noise before heading down to Virginia to play for one of college lacrosse’s best programs. Nick may be a freshman, but he has not played like one through their scrimmages and has that backyard chemistry with his older brother. With Chatham returning great players and continuing to develop even more, this team should not be expected to take a step back and most likely will continue to get better as a group under the direction of Coach Scarpello as the season progresses. Look out for Chatham not only in Group 3, but in the Morris County and statewide picture.