PISCATAWAY TOWNSHIP, NJ - From a magnitude take there have been bigger games but, from a sheer girth of the venue perspective, this was the largest game in recent memory -- perhaps ever -- for the Summit High School Boys Varsity Lacrosse Team.
Making the lengthy journey to take on Moorestown at 52.454-seat High Point Solutions Stadium on the campus of Rutgers University, The Maroon and White had an in-game experience that mirrored their relatively arduous 75-minute, lodged-in-traffic trip to get there.
The two teams waged a defensive struggle that saw just two goals scored over the opening three quarters and just five in the game, but the Hilltoppers scored twice in the final eight minutes and edged the Quakers 3-2 to improve to 9-2 on the season.
Harry Kilkowski scored what proved to be the eventual game-deciding goal with 2:42 remaining, but the winning water was carried by Summit's defensive unit and goalie Will Vitton, who was sparkling between the pipes with 15 saves for the boys from the 07901.
The Hilltopper defense allowed bookend goals halfway through the first quarter and with less than 90-seconds left in the contest, but shut the door tight in and around those two tallies.
Eamon McTernan and Chris Fowler each scored for Summit, which got a needed confidence boost coming off a disheartening loss at Chatham four days prior.
The game was engineered via a relationship between Summit Head Coach Jim Davidson and Moorestown coach Baron Wallenhurst, and the grand venue courtesy of Rutgers Men's Lacrosse Coach Brian Brecht, who graciously gave the boys from both teams a night they won't soon forget.
For the virtual totality of the encounter, the game resembled someone trying to evade their own reflection in the mirror -- no matter how hard they try and which way they move, it just ain't possible to shake the 'opposition' staring back.
Moorestown did get on the board at the 7:35 mark of the opening frame when Wesley Sporer scored, and the goal held up for a near-full quarter of action before the Hilltoppers' McTernan fired home a lefty rip, assisted by Kilkowski.
Defensive stops, turnovers, and saves from Vitton and his Quakers counterpart Liam Peck formed a seemingly endless loop, and the teams went to the halftime break tied 1-1.
The entire third stanza went -- fittingly -- scoreless, setting up a nervy final 12 minutes. In a game that featured tactical defensive excellence, it was equally apropos that the goal that broke the deadlock was pretty much impossible to defend against.
Just over four minutes into the fourth, Summit was attempting to clear the ball when an errant pass out of their own end skittered down the middle of the Moorestown defensive zone. Splitting the defense, the rolling rock was scooped up by Fowler who exploited the seam and then fired low left past Peck.
Up 2-1 with 8:36 left, Summit's defense kept the hammer down and, after a Quakers turnover gave the Hilltoppers the ball back with a little more than four minutes remaining, the offense set up shop.
Sensing time was not on their side, Moorestown began chasing the ball with heightened urgency, and Kilkowski exploited a gap, charging in from the left-hand alley to finish high from in front. Summit led 3-1 with 2:47 left.
The Quakers weren't done, however, and Frankie Labetti beat Vitton with 1:19 remaining to set up a grandstand finish. The Hilltoppers got a face-off win from Sam Zanelli, but subsequently turned it over behind the Moorestown goal. A long shot from the top right was routinely saved by Vitton as the final horn sounded.
Summit shaded the stats battle, winning in face-offs (5-4), ground balls (21-11) and shots (25-18).
Post-game, Davidson praised his opponents and the experience. "They are really good defensive team. We tried to be patient on offense and defensively, I thought we settled in after they scored their first goal. The kids were excited to play here and it was a great experience for them."
Next up for the Hilltoppers is an even longer trip, as they continues their partnership with Lincoln-Sudbury High School and travel to Massachusetts April 29. Face-off in the Bay state is set for 12 p.m.