SUMMIT, NJ - Many have tried. None have succeeded.
The Summit High School girls varsity lacrosse team has -- on numerous occasions -- seen opponents implement a defensive scheme designed to neutralize a specific Hilltopper offensive weapon. In the their Tournament of Champions semifinal against Mountain Lakes, the strategy was to face-guard Sara Szynal, who scored six goals in Summit's quarterfinal victory over Red Bank Catholic.
This Summit team is, however, not a one-trick pony. It features a arsenal of offensive artillery and, while Szynal was held goal-less, Meaghan Celmer scored five times, and Olivia Kelly had a hat trick as the Hilltoppers beat Mountain Lakes, 11-9, and advanced to the Tournament of Champions final for the first time in program history.
The game was scoreless for nearly the first five minutes, until Kelly broke through unassisted at the 20:08 mark to give Summit the lead. Exactly one minute later, Emily Kalin took a pass from Maggie Moriarty and made it 2-0. For Moriarty, it was her 51st assist of the season.
After the Lakers scored to cut the lead in half, a Stephanie Ford interception led to Szynal finding Celmer and the lead was 3-1. Celmer turned provider for Callie Humphrey, and the sophomore upped the advantage to 4-1.
Mountain Lakes struck for two goals in two minutes to slice the lead to 4-3. Catherine Cordrey scored a big goal, unassisted, for Summit with just 19 seconds remaining in the half to give the Hilltoppers a 5-3 lead at the break.
The Hilltoppers have made a habit of putting teams away early in the second half, but after five minutes of the second frame it was tied at 5. Three straight Summit goals followed, and the resilience -- the word is emblazoned on the back of their warm-up shirts -- demonstrated by this Hilltopper squad is what ultimately sets them apart.
While Summit, through a pair of goals by Celmer, and one by Kelly, was pushing to an 8-5 lead, they were also holding the Lakers scoreless for nearly 15 minutes. Kady Glynn made several key saves as the advantage was built and, with less than three minutes to go and Summit up 9-7, Mountain Lakes doubled the ball and Celmer's fourth and fifth goals made it a four-goal lead. Two Lakers goals in the final 30 seconds made the score line tighter, but did not threaten the outcome.
"We made it tough at times on ourselves, but Mountain Lakes is a well-coached team that fights and has big-time players," said Summit Head Coach Mike Walsh. "We are honored to be the first Summit Girls Team to reach the TOC Final, and look forward to the challenge that Moorestown represents."
Summit will take on the top-seeded Quakers in the championship final June 7 at 5 p.m. Moorestown defeated Lenape 13-7 in the evening's second semifinal.