SUMMIT, NJ - Pushed to their limits, the top-seeded Summit High School Boys Varsity Lacrosse Team fought back from a three-goal first-half deficit, saw their defense pitch a second-half shutout, and got a goal from Chris Fowler with less than five minutes left in the contest to beat number-two seed Roxbury 6-5 and win the NJSIAA North, Group 3 Title.
The win sees the Hilltoppers, now 16-4 on the season, advance to play Moorestown May 31 at Shore Regional High School. Face-off is set for 7:30 p.m. The game will be a rematch of the April 26 match-up which saw Summit beat the Quakers 3-2 at Rutgers' HighPoint Solutions Stadium. Shore Regional High School is located at 132 NJ-36 in West Long Branch.
Senior captain Corey McManus had four goals in the victory, while goalie Will Vitton made 10 big saves, several of which gave The Maroon and White the opportunity to climb back into a game in which -- early on -- they were just hanging on.
Summit had a rough start to the contest, surrendering much of the possession and turning the ball over three consecutive times. Still, they got on the board first through an unassisted goals by McManus at the 4:55 mark.
Troubling signs remained, however, as the Gaels were gobbling up every loose ball, leading to a disproportionate level of possession, and soon the visitors' goal faucet would not only be turned on, it was be opened wide up.
Roxbury's David Biank leveled the score at the 3:38 mark, and was quickly followed by the first of two goals from teammate 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 stanza.
McManus then notched his Hat Trick goal with 3:51 left in the second, a play that was keyed by a dynamic end-to-end effort from senior defender Patrick Tully, who delivered a big check on the defensive end, won the ground ball, then rumbled downfield and found The Captain who slotted home.
Energized by Tully's Titanic play, momentum seemed to rise from its seat, remove the dark blue Roxbury cap it had been wearing, replace it with a Maroon chapeau, and sit back down.
Even though the half ended with the Hilltoppers trailing 5-3, one could sense that they had gotten their footing, and better times were ahead in the second half. After being on the wrong end of the stat clash in the first quarter -- the home team trailed in shots (8-4), ground balls (8-4) and face-offs (4-3) -- Summit was now on the neutral or positive side of all three metrics as evidenced by shots (13-10), ground balls (11-11) and face-offs 5-5).
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 boys from the 07901 started to exert their growing 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.
Fowler fired a shot from the right side that the Gaels' Wayne Safreed got a piece of, but the ball found a way to trickle over the goal 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 minutes, but could not put the ball past Vitton, who appeared to have donned his brick wall suit at halftime.
After digging a hole early, Summit claimed wins in the stat column as well as on the scoreboard, yielding edges in shots (28-18), ground balls (26-22) and face-offs (10-5).
"They were beating us to every ground ball early, which led to some long possessions and we got on our heels," said Summit Head Coach Jim Davidson. "We had to collect ourselves, and then talked at halftime about how they got their goals, regrouped and did a much better job defensively in the middle of the field. Once we started to get more of the ball, we were able to execute some things offensively and defeat a very good team."