SUMMIT, NJ - The skies above were azure blue, but the day was all Maroon & White.
Playing as complete a game as they have this season, the Summit High School Boys Varsity Lacrosse Team rode a powerful performance in the opening 24 minutes -- during which they amassed a 6-0 lead -- to beat Chatham 8-2, to claim the NJSIAA North Jersey, Group 2 Sectional Title.
With the win, the Hilltoppers advance to the Group Final, where they will take on Cranford at Livingston High School May 27. Face-off is set for 5 p.m.
The opening 11 minutes of the game were a defensive slugfest, with each side taking turns having possession and dispossessing the other. Summit broke through in the final two minutes of the quarter, seizing momentum they would never relinquish.
John Cordrey scored with 49.8 seconds remaining in the first, and then fed Andrew Chase for a goal 25 seconds later that had to be soul-crushing for the Cougars, who played a spirited first quarter but came out of it on the bad end of 2-0 score line.
The Hilltoppers put the game in a stranglehold when they won the second quarter 4-0 and took a six-goal lead at the half. Chase's second made it 3-0 at the 8:25 mark, followed by a Hat Trick from Corey McManus in a span of six minutes, the last coming with just 9.3 seconds remaining in the quarter.
The sixth goal symbolized Summit's grit and effort on the day, and was another key moment won in a game that saw most of those vital occurrences go the way of the Hilltoppers.
The catalyst for the play was an outstanding individual effort by Cordrey, who used ballet-like footwork to corral a ground ball at midfield inches inside the field of play, spun around, beat his defender and raced toward goal. Waiting until the last possible second and drawing an onrushing defender to him in the process, the senior captain dished the ball to McManus who placed it high into the net.
It was a dynamic play, one which lifts the emotions of one team and massively deflates the spirits of the other.
Up by a half-dozen goals, it was obvious to all that Summit was going to face a push from Chatham in the second half, and the Cougars came out pressing aggressively. Cordrey, however, made it 7-0, and the outcome -- if it even was prior -- was now decided.
Austin Pierce scored for Chatham at the 2:34 mark, the first goal the Cougars have scored against Summit this season in 81:26 of game-time, having been shut out by the Hilltoppers on March 31.
Pierce scored again at 11:02, but that goal was answered at the 3:39 mark by a tally from Riley Flynn. Summit -- aided all day by stellar work at "the X" from FOGO Malcolm Feeney who, himself, was aided by the tenacious play from wings Andrew Helmer and Sean Andrews -- enjoyed most of the possession and played keep away for significant stretches of the final quarter.
And, when the Hilltoppers needed him, as he has been all season, goalie Jay Winchell was there, making six timely saves on the afternoon.
Summit Head Coach Jim Davidson agreed that this was the most complete game his Hilltopper team had played to date this season. "Against a very good team, we were able to perform at a high level in all aspects -- face-offs, ground balls, defensively -- and our offense found some good looks."
Getting their nose in front of a Cougar team that thrives on dictating the tempo of the game when they lead, according to Davidson, was paramount. "It was really important to get the lead, we talked about that before the game, and we got off to a good start took it from there. It was an outstanding effort today from our senior leaders."
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