BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ- The Summit High School Hilltoppers girls varsity soccer team knew a task was on hand when they went up against the Governor Livingston High School Highlanders, who came into the game having won six of their last seven games, a streak that had turned around the Highlanders season.
“We beat them earlier in the season, but we knew they’re a different team now,” Summit senior Kaleigh Brennan said. “They have a lot of great wins that our coach told us about and that we were going to have to play our hardest.”
The Hilltoppers, who got an early score on an own goal, shook off an early Highlanders goal in the second half by putting up two goals in a short time span to put away the Highlanders by a final score of 3-1 at Synder Avenue Park in Berkley Heights.
As the second half began with Summit leading 1-0 coming out of halftime, freshman Kaylee Vreeland finished off a chance in the Summit zone to tie the game at 1-1 with her ninth goal of the season.
The pace of the game following Vreeland’s game-tying goal appeared to be even between the two teams, with both goaltenders making some saves in the process.
“Each of our first goals, I think, were defensive breakdowns,” Governor Livingston head coach Mike Roof said. “From there on, we did tie it early in the second half. I thought we had some positive play for a good seven to ten minute [span].”
The teams continued to produce chance after chance as the minutes went by in the second half, but the score remained tied between the Hilltoppers and Highlanders. The teams traded headers, free kicks, throw-ins and all kinds of scoring opportunities, but nothing was quite getting to the back of the net.
Summit broke the tie in the later stages of the game.
Brennan gave her team the 2-1 lead with her second goal of the season, one that came as the Hilltoppers continued to slow down the Highlanders on the scoring opportunities that came their way.
“We really wanted to get a win coming out of our big loss against Oak Knoll [2-1 loss on Wednesday, October 18],” Brennan said. “So, we all had the mindset that we just had to give it everything we had and work as a team and that’s exactly what we did.”
The Hilltoppers capitalized on a late chance with great defense, shortly after taking the lead. After stopping a Highlanders chance in their zone, a fast-break move was made and with quick passing, senior Keegan Mayer received the ball.
Once she received the pass and looked on goal, she shot it on net and gave her team a 3-1 lead. The goal was Mayer’s team-leading 12th goal of the season.
She credits her team’s turnaround following halftime as a major reason for coming through on top.
“We were slow in the first half, but in the second half, we were working as a team, moving quickly down the field and that’s how we got our two goals in the second half,” Mayer said.
For Summit, senior goaltender Catherine Maloney stopped five of six Highlanders shots that came her way in net in the victory for her team.
“After the game, I told the girls if I was going to use one word to describe our performance today, that one word would be character,” Summit head coach Gary Healey said. “I thought we showed real, strong character because we knew it was going to be a tough game. We had to dig deep and that’s what they did.”
For the Highlanders, they produced several scoring opportunities and they came close on the corner kicks they received after falling behind, but the chances wouldn’t go through and they couldn’t keep up as the Hilltoppers pulled away with the insurance goal.
“I think we may have failed to recognize some of the threats [Summit] can pose, especially Keegan [Mayer],” Roof said. “A simple game plan would be to control her and you probably have some level of success. She had a goal and an assist today, so that pretty much proves the fact that we didn’t pay closer attention to her from a defensive standpoint and she made us pay.”
The Summit Hilltoppers (7-7-1) head out on the road to play at Chatham HS tomorrow afternoon at 4:00 p.m.
The Governor Livingston Highlanders (8-7-1) head out on the road to play at Oak Knoll HS Wednesday afternoon at 4:00 p.m.