SUMMIT, NJ - Playing with a swarming intensity that saw them win virtually every loose ball, getting huge performances from both their face-off men, and executing with surgical precision on offense, the Summit High School Boys Varsity Lacrosse Team surged to a massive first-half lead and sailed past Scotch Plains-Fanwood 13-4 at Investors Bank Field.
The victory, which improves the Hilltoppers season record to 15-4, earns The Maroon and White a trip to the NJSIAA North, Group 3 Final. There, number-one seeded Summit will face second-seeded Roxbury, a 6-5 winner over number-six seed Princeton in the other semifinal.
The Group Final will be played May 27 at Investors Bank Field. Face-off is set for 11 a.m.
Sophomore Jackson Tyler had four goals, Chris Fowler and Eamon McTernan had Hat Tricks, and goalie Will Vitton had 10 saves in three-plus quarters of action to lead Summit
Coming into the contest, neutral observers expected a tough tilt versus the number-four seeded Raiders, who are talented and get streaky hot offensively, as evidenced by how they stormed back late to tie Westfield in regulation of the Union County semifinals, only to lose in overtime.
Possession, as it almost always is, would be vital. In the games where the Hilltoppers have struggled this year, ball ownership has been an issue, but the work of 'X Men' Chris Zanelli and Joe Persche in the opening 12 minutes set the tone for the remainder of the team to deliver perhaps their best quarter of lacrosse this season to date.
When Zanelli and Persche didn't win a face-off outright, their teammates on the wing were there to relentlessly collect it. When Scotch Plains-Fanwood did get the ball, the Summit defense was busy turning the Raiders over, or Vitton was there to make the stop.
Offensively, the Hilltoppers were both decisive and clean, moving the ball around and getting quality looks. One by one the goals came, and little by little those watching could see the confidence drain out of the Raiders with each Summit body blow.
The Hilltoppers scored four straight unassisted goals in less than three minutes of the first quarter to take command. Fowler, Tyler, Jack Johnson and Tyler again gave Summit a 4-0 lead with 5:13 left in the frame.
The home side wasn't done, however, and Fowler from Harry Kilkowski, Kilkowski from Nick Thomson, and senior captain Corey McManus from Kilkowski -- the triad of tallies coming within a minute's time inside the final 1:34 of the quarter -- applied the hammer.
Summit knew that, no matter the score, Scotch Plains-Fanwood would go hard until the game's final horn, so they kept the throttle open and potted four more goals in the second quarter.
After Jack Brady scored for the Raiders, Fowler and McTernan - both assisted by Kilkowski, followed by a pair of scores from Tyler -- who, at times, looked unstoppable -- made it 11-1 at the half.
The stats at the break were as heavily-weighted in the Hilltoppers' favor as the score. Summit dominated in shots (21-6), ground balls (22-6) and had won 8 of 13 face-offs after claiming six of eight face-off wins in the first quarter.
After the high-octane opening 24 minutes, it was likely the game would come off the boil a bit in the second half. Summit was all but home and dry, and Scotch Plains-Fanwood was two quarters away from the end of their season.
The Hilltoppers did hit twine three more times in the third, with Kilkowski and two goals by McTernan giving them a 13-2 lead heading to the fourth.
The game got relatively sloppy in the fourth and the Raiders scored twice playing, as expected, with energy and commitment until the clock would no longer allow them to do so.
The final stats showed Summit coming out on top in shots (32-22), ground balls (40-14) and face-offs (11-9). Pat Moriarty came on late and was credited with one save. Noah Costanzo, Anthony Porter and Greg Oross had the other Scotch Plains-Fanwood goals.
"Overall it was a good performance," said Summit Head Coach Jim Davidson. "We knew we were going to have to battle, win 50-50 balls and we did, which created some opportunities for us in transition."