CLARK, NJ - They both fell behind, then each made a mad dash to to catch their opponents before the clock struck zero. One made it. The other did not. In the end, neither could get a win.
All in all, from a Summit perspective it was a Saturday night to forget in the Union County Tournament (UCT) Finals at AL Johnson High School.
First the Hilltopper Girls Varsity took the field against crosstown rival Oak Knoll. Falling behind by five goals in the second half, the Maroon & White made a dramatic comeback, tying the game inside the final ten seconds only to lose in overtime.
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Then the Summit Boys Varsity took the stage. They were three goals behind in the fourth quarter, rallied to get to within one and saw their last-second shot saved at the horn.
As is often the case, and in some seemingly unexplainable cosmic link, there are seasonal, situational, and spiritual connections between the Summit High School Girls and Boys Lacrosse programs. On this night, the mechanics of their comebacks were even similar - after struggling to get the ball, they began to win possession, got some momentum and then started to execute offensively.
One point of divergence, however, is that the girls' defeat broke a streak. Summit had won eight Union County Championships in a row -- while the boys' setback kept a run going, albeit it a dubious one from a 07901 perspective. Summit has now lost the last three Union County Finals to Westfield, each by a lone goal.
Oak Knoll 10, Summit 9 (OT)
Girls UCT Final
Down 8-3 halfway through the second half, the Summit High School Girls Varsity Lacrosse Team made a valiant charge and tied the game at nine goals apiece with 7.8 seconds remaining, but Oak Knoll won a contested ball off the opening draw of OT, called timeout, then scored immediately thereafter to beat Summit 10-9.
Diana Kelly scored early in the first overtime period, setting off a Royals Rumble celebration and spoiling a heroic Hilltopper charge led by junior Helen Louise Johnson, whose work on the draw, ground balls, and her goal-scoring got the Summit off the mat and nearly led them to victory.
Johnson scored a second-half Hat Trick as Summit scored four goals in the final four-plus minutes of regulation.
The Hilltoppers slogged through a tough opening 25 minutes of lacrosse that saw them trail 4-1. Summit didn't get much of the ball and couldn't get any traction going when they did have it. Senior captain Maddie Collins -- who finished with 10 stops -- came up with five big saves as the half progressed, which allowed the Hilltoppers to hang around, enabling the rally to germinate and grow.
Oak Knoll's Annabelle Zembroski had two goals, and Diana Kelly and Keelin Schlageter each had a score in the opening half. Julia Szynal had Summit's tally.
In the second half, Anna Huntley-Robertson scored early to cut the Royals' lead to 4-2. Diana Kelly scored her second for Oak Knoll, but that was answered by Anna Griffith, however the sophomore's score was followed by Katie Kelly finding the back of the net and the Royals were up 6-3.
The back-and-forth ended, however, as Oak Knoll potted two more goals -- from Diana Kelly and Zembrowski -- to give them three goals in two minutes and a daunting 8-3 lead.
Sensing that, while hope wasn't lost, it was not exactly on an expedient journey to Hilltopperville, Summit Head Coach Mike Walsh called a timeout, and the reset seemed to pay dividends when Johnson began taking and winning draws and scoring goals.
Two straight from the junior made it 8-5. Although Oak Knoll's Christy Sieber made it 9-5, the Hilltoppers kept charging. Senior captain Cecily Stabler found the back of the net to make it 9-6 with 4:20 remaining, but that is where the scored stayed until there were just over 90 seconds left.
Johnson's Hat Trick goal, scored falling to the turf, made it 9-7. The clock showed 1:37. She then won the ensuing draw and Anna Turk scored off a feed from Katia Carnevale with 1:01 left and Summit was within one at 9-8.
Another Johnson draw win led to the Hilltoppers getting possession and, after a shot that went off target but was backed up by Summit, Griffith earned a free position opportunity from the 8-meter line with under 10 ticks left in the game.
The sophomore took aim and scored with 7.3 seconds on the clock, and every ounce of game energy was with Summit. Johnson won yet another draw but time expired as Stabler entered the Oak Knoll zone, and the game headed to overtime.
Johnson looked poised to continue her draw magic in OT, but Oak Knoll was able to grab the loose ball, Seconds later, Diana Kelly scored for the Royals, meaning Summit -- for the first time in nearly a decade -- left AL Johnson High School without the Union County Title.
Post-game, Summit Head Coach Mike Walsh admitted that "at some point the (Union County Title) streak was going to come to an end, but we just didn't want that to be today," adding, "We needed to play with a bit more poise in the first half, but I like how we fought back in the second. As disappointing as this is, this was not our final game and we have many more important games to play ahead of us. We have to learn from the experience and get back to work in practice."
Summit -- now 12-2 on the season -- will face Kent Place May 11 under the lights on the Upper Turf Field. The special 'Senior Night' game begins at 7 p.m.
Westfield 5, Summit 4
Boys UCT Final
Westfield's Devon McLane had two goals and an assist, including what proved to be the game-winning goal at the onset of the fourth quarter as the Summit High School Boys Varsity Lacrosse Team -- despite a final frame charge -- came up a score short and fell to the Blue Devils in the Union County Tournament Final 5-4.
Jack Johnson and senior captain Corey McManus each had two goals for the Hilltoppers, while Will Vitton was again big-time in goal for Summit, coming up with 11 saves.
Summit fell behind 2-0 in the first quarter when Nick Bond fired a lefty laser from distance and Jake Engelke scored, but Johnson got The Maroon and White on the board with just over a minute remaining.
Summit didn't have a ton of the ball and was not getting many shots on target -- in fact, Westfield goalie Jack McCauley was credited with just four saves in the entire game -- but they did tie the game when McManus scored, assisted by Chris Fowler, with 2:33 left in the second quarter.
McLane's first of the game, however, came inside the half's final minute and Westfield took a 3-2 lead to the break.
In a contest already controlled by both teams' defensive prowess, the third quarter became even more so until McLane set up Jake Wornow and Westfield led by two once more.
Down 4-2 entering the fourth quarter, Summit knew they would have to get on the front foot and the next goal would be key. Unfortunately for those of the 07901 persuasion, the frame's opening face-off saw a loose ball gobbled up by Blue Devils captain Owen Prybylski. The unsettled situation saw Prybylski find McLane whose right-handed shot from the left side beat Vitton low to the goalie's right. Just 15 seconds had elapsed in the quarter and it was 5-2 Westfield.
Summit started to get more of the ball, began to look more assertive, and climbed back into it through goals by McManus and Johnson at 9:52 and 5:23, respectively.
Despite Westfield getting possession inside the final two minutes, the Hilltoppers got the ball back and broke into the Blue Devils zone through a charging Greg Moller who, as he crossed midfield, got clipped in the helmet by a stick.
Summit had the ball and man advantage with just over a minute to go. After a time-out, the Hilltoppers worked the ball around the perimeter, but couldn't get the shot off that, ideally, they wanted. McManus' under-hand shot at the horn didn't really trouble McCauley, who made a routine stop.
"We thought we got a couple of opportunities on the man-up at the end of the game, but we weren't able to pull the trigger," said Summit Head Coach Jim Davidson. "i think we got caught up in the game and didn't play our best in the first half, but we battled back and just came up short at the end."
Summit, now 12-3 on the season, next travels to face a tough Ridgewood team May 10. Face-off is set for 4:30 p.m.