SUMMIT, NJ - Despite playing a tremendous first half, which saw it build a 3-goal lead, the second-seeded Roxbury High School boys lacrosse team was eventually caught and passed by top-seeded Summit, falling 6-5 in the NJSIAA North, Group 3 Final.
The Gaels, who concluded a stellar season with a 19-4 record, failed to score in the second half of the May 27 game and a goal by Summit's Chris Fowler with 4:34 remaining in the final quarter proved to be the difference.
"Great game, historic season w/division championships and 19-4 record," tweeted Gaels coach Chris Blough after the game. "Thank you seniors."
After a back and forth opening to the game, in which both teams had multiple possessions but could not break through, Roxbury fell behind when Summit's Corey McManus -- who had four goals on the day -- scored at the 4:55 mark.
Undeterred, the Gaels went on an offensive tear, capitalizing on the possession they were getting courtesy of their relentless work on the ground ball front. Soon enough, the goals would flow.
David Biank leveled the score at the 3:38 mark, and was quickly followed by the first of two goals from Matt Dancsecs less than a minute later. Just over 30 seconds after that, Zach Poissant made it 3-1 Gaels, and Dancsecs completed the run at the 1:38 mark to up the advantage to 4-1.
Roxbury's four goals in exactly two minutes caused Summit to take a standing eight-count-like timeout, which appeared to pay near immediate dividends when McManus scored his second goal of the game with 32.1 remaining in the quarter.
The Hilltoppers' momentum was short-lived however, as the Gaels restored their three-goal advantage when Paul Schadel scored less than 90 seconds into the second quarter.
Summit's McManus notched his hat trick goal with 3:51 left in the second, and the teams went to the break with the Gaels leading 5-3.
While, in hindsight, the tide of the contest began to turn when Summit hung on in the second quarter, it tangibly ebbed in the third frame as the Hilltoppers started to exert an advantage in possession and ground ball success to score two goals which tied the game.
McManus scored his fourth just under a minute into the third, and Eamon McTernan knotted things at 5-5 just 32 seconds later. After that a defensive wrist-wrestling match ensued, with spectators getting the feeling that, as the clock ticked down from the third quarter - which ended tied at five - and into the fourth, the next goal may be the match-winner.
And it was.
Summit's Chris Fowler fired a shot from the right side. Gaels' goalie Wayne Safreed got a piece of it, but the ball found a way to trickle over the line. There was 4:34 left, and Summit had its first lead of the day at 6-5.
Roxbury had several possessions over the final four minutes, including a couple in the final two, but could not put the ball past the Hilltoppers' Will Vitton.
Safreed ended the day with 11 saves, while Eric D'Arminio added two assists and Biank had one helper.
After building big leads in the stat column during the opening 15 minutes of the affair, Roxbury came out on the short end of the metrics, as evidenced by Summit edges in shots (28-18), ground balls (26-22) and face-offs (10-5).