SUMMIT, NJ - The Summit High School Girls Varsity Lacrosse Team hit a brick wall in the first half of their Union County Tournament semifinal game versus Westfield. In fact, they hit it nine times.
The wall has a name, Mallory Weisse, and a number, 27, and the talented Westfield goalie was stoning the Hilltoppers, giving the Blue Devils a confidence boost which they used -- along with a healthy dose of possession -- to build a one-goal halftime lead.
Summit upped their energy and grit in the second half, owned draw control, and finally found a way to beat Weisse, scoring six unanswered goals which carried them past Westfield 10-5, and into the Union County Tournament Final May 9 at AL Johnson High School.
The Hilltoppers will face Oak Knoll, the tournament's number-one seed, who rallied from two goals down in the final minutes to tie, and then defeat, Kent Place 15-14 in overtime, to win the other semifinal. In their lone matchup this season, Oak Knoll beat Summit 14-10 on April 2.
Against the Blue Devils, Summit opened fast, jumping out to a quick 2-0 lead, courtesy of a pair of Sara Szynal goals eighteen seconds apart. Westfield's Hannah Liddy answered back at the 18:57 mark off a free position opportunity, to make it 2-1.
The advantage grew to 3-1 when the Hilltoppers Callie Humphrey took a feed from Szynal at 14:29, but the rest of the first half was all Westfield.
Using a combination of draw control to get possession, and the stellar play of Weisse when they didn't, the Blue Devils scored the final three goals of the half to take a lead at the break.
Liddy's second goal tied the game at two, then Sam Paoletti scored two goals, the last coming off a feed from Liddy with just 12.7 seconds to go, to give Westfield the advantage, 4-3. Weisse's nine first half saves seemed like a lot more as, when she wasn't actually making a save, she was forcing the Hilltoppers to misfire, and clearly had gotten into the minds of the Summit shooters.
The second half, and the outcome of the game, was going to be dictated by which team could win the possession battle and, for the first 20 of the final 25 minutes, the ball belonged to Summit. Winning seemingly every loose ball, the Hilltoppers did not lose a draw until there were less than four minutes left in the contest.
With the ball comes opportunities, and -- unlike in the first half -- Summit found a way to solve Weisse. who finished with 14 saves. Szynal completed her Hat Trick at 19:04 on a bounce shot after taking a pass from Maggie Moriarty. Julia Persche followed at 15:58 to put Summit back in front 5-4. Then Szynal looked to have made 6-4 less than a minute later, but her goal was wiped out after her stick failed inspection when challenged by Westfield after she scored.
Such a play can be a big momentum changer, but the Hilltoppers Kady Glynn -- who had nine key saves on the day -- made short work of a Westfield chance, and Summit went back to work on offense.
Catherine Cordrey ripped a shot from the right side at 10:26 and it was 6-4, then scored again two minutes later to increase the lead to three. Persche scored her second at 6:39 to make it 8-4, and Summit tacked on two more -- from Szynal and Julia Harkins -- when Westfield was pressing the ball in the last few minutes of the game.
Hallie Rosenburgh scored for the Blue Devils with 45 seconds remaining to round out the scoring.
Summit Head Coach Mike Walsh knew some halftime adjustments were needed, and key to the Hilltoppers victory. "She (Weisse) is a very good goalie, and she always comes up big against us. We talked about our shooting angles at halftime, and our possession gave us an opportunity to give her some different looks in the second half."
On his team's dominant ball control in the final half, Walsh said, "Catherine Cordrey did a nice job of putting the ball where we want it, and our kids caught the ball and didn't let it drop." Of the rematch against Oak Knoll, he said, "We didn't feel we played our best the last time we faced them, and we know we have to play much better this time around."
Next Game: May 9, Union County Tournament Final v. Oak Knoll, 5:30 p.m. at AL Johnson High School
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