Girls Swimming2/15NJSIAA Sectional FinalScotch Plains Fanwood 89 - Chatham 81
Scotch Plains Fanwood No. 5 in the NJ.com Top 20, finally got its revenge.
For two years No. 9 and second-seeded Chatham has been there to end a promising season for the Raiders in the sectional final, as the Cougars continued their own dynasty, winning their sixth state championship in seven years last season.
But with the touches finally going top-seeded Scotch Plains-Fanwood's way, the Raiders secured an 89-81 win in the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Public B final to finally get the monkey off their back.
"It was amazing," senior Erika Frazier said. "Everyone has worked so hard and we just want it so bad. There's a dynamic on this team that's different than club swimming, summer swimming and really anything.
"We won states our freshman year so that's why all the seniors are hoping to go out the way we started and take the state title home."
Scotch Plains-Fanwood advances to the Public B semifinals where it will be the top seed and face fourth-seeded Northern Highlands on Tuesday at Raritan Bay YMCA at 6 p.m.
"It feels so good," Olivia Barcia said. "This is our third time in the sectional final against them, and it feels amazing to finally beat them. We both work so hard and I think we're both deserving teams. It feels good to finally win again."
Two years ago Chatham handed the Scotch Plains-Fanwood seniors their first high school loss.
The group won a Public B championship during an undefeated season as freshmen for Scotch Plains-Fanwood during Chatham's lone season in Public C, and then lost a three-point meet to the Cougars in the regular season their sophomore year. The rivalry just kept building in the sectional final that year when Chatham won the meet thanks to a .07 second win in the final relay.
"I don't know if there's a better feeling," senior Megan Small said. "My sophomore year they were the first team I ever lost to. It was jarring. From the get-go the target was Chatham. You just can't find a team that's been more equal of an opponent. Both meets came down to the final relay that year, and in the sectional final we lost the last relay by .07 seconds and then our season was over."
Last year Scotch Plains-Fanwood won in the regular season meeting, but once again couldn't get past its new rival with Chatham flipping the script to take a 97-73 win in the sectional final.
That's why a 102-68 win early in regular season this year didn't fill Scotch Plains-Fanwood with too much confidence, especially with Chatham still figuring out how to replace 11 major point producers who graduated after last season.
"We really used that as a motivating factor," Barcia said. "We didn't want that to happen again."
Heading into the meet, Scotch Plains-Fanwood coach Jess Hulnik calculated it out as a 10-point win for Chatham, and she told her swimmers with the teams so evenly matched, even event to event, every millisecond matters.
"I had it 90-80 in favor of them and I told my girls we needed to find six points somewhere," Hulnik said. "It's one of those meets where every kid makes a difference. We had, what, three points to play with? That's a touch that they get that we don't and they were more than capable of pulling that out."
Her team got the message.
Barcia edged out Chatham's Sara Barrett by .61 seconds to take third in the 200 free and later Megan Small edged out Chatham's Olivia Polemeni by .56 seconds in the final leg of the 200 free relay. Scotch Plains-Fanwood even found a way to earn a two-point advantage through the 50 and 100 free thanks to a 2-3-4 finish in the 50 free and a 1-4 finish in the 100 free.
Small and freshman sister Rachel Small tied for third in that 50 free, taking it by .33 seconds to help the Raiders earn the advantage despite conceding first place to Polemeri.
"I told my coach that we planned (on tying)," Megan Small joked. "We did not, but I was really happy with the outcome. We didn't expect to do that well in the event, and my sister is a freshman. I won a sectional title my freshman year, and now she gets to during her freshman year."
That finish helped when Chatham caught Scotch Plains-Fanwood by surprise by sticking both Nicole Tingley and Hailey Harkins into the 100 fly, earning a 1-3-5 finish in an event the Raiders thought they held the advantage.
"They're such a smart and strategic team," Frazier said, who finished second in the 100 fly. They know where they can move their swimmers around. They definitely switched around the fly. We weren't expecting that. They put two girls who are really strong in the fly, so all three of us had to push it really hard."
But that wasn't the defining moment of the meet for Frazier, who had arguably the most important finish of the contest in the 100 back.
Chatham had Monica Iizuka and Harkins swimming, hoping for a big finish to take back the lead heading into an 100 breast event that Scotch Plains-Fanwood had a clear advantage. But with the race neck-and-neck until the end, Frazier earned a .06 second win to split the event, 8-8, and keep the Raiders' six-point lead.
"It's really hard to swim all these events and then fight to the wall the last couple seconds," Frazier said. "It really matters down to that last millisecond. You can't let it get to your head. It's very easy to let it when you see the girl next to you fighting just as hard as you are."
Rachel Maizes showed she's still one of the best breaststrokers in the state with a first-place finish of 1:06.98, Ana Dunchus took second and Sofia Leonetti took fourth to clinch the win heading into the final relay.1/27Morris County ChampionshipsChatham captured the Morris County Championship Title. It was the program's 10th consecutive title. Read more at tapintochatham.net and dailyrecord.com1/18Varsity--Chatham 98 - Mountain Lakes 72Nicole Tingley, Olivia Polemeni, and Erica Iizuka each won individual events for Chatham1/16Varsity--Morristown 96 - Chatham 74Nicole Tingley, Hailey Harkins, and Erica Iizuka each won individual events for Chatham1/9Varsity--Chatham 132 - Morristown Beard 36Hailey Harkins, Isabella Hoie, Olivia Polemmeni, Nicole Tingley, Sara Barett, Monica Iizuka, and Erica Iizuka all won individual events for Chatham.12/19Varsity--Chatham 113 - West Morris Central 57Sarah Devlin, Hailey Harkins, Marley McSweeney, Sara Murphy, Kaley Snarr and Sara Barrett all won individual events for Chatham.12/13Varsity--Scotch Plains Fanwood 102 - Chatham 68Chatham lost their first meet of the season 102- 68 to Scotch Plains Fanwood. Read more at nj.com12/5Varsity--Chatham 120 - Villa Walsh 37Chatham moved to 2 - 0 on the season with a 120-37 victory over Villa Walsh. Invidiual event winners were: Moira Horan, Nicole Tingley, Olivia Polemeni, Hailey Harkins, Kaley Snarr, Monica Iizuka, and Erica Iizuka.