UNION, NJ - Funny thing about idioms.
They can drive one nuts. Kind of like the "where do you think you left them" response to "I can't find my car keys" statement drives one nuts.
They can be trite, coincidentally self-serving, and overly simplistic. Challenge is they can often be true, which is kind of how -- in the first place -- they generated the required repetition and repuation necessary to become what most folks call sayings.
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Take a few examples, such as, "It is not how you start, but how you finish," "Good things come to those who wait," and "The third time is the charm." They've been uttered countless times, and most of the time they are said and then rather quickly forgotten.
But then there are moments and situations when these phrases fit like a perfectly tailored outfit. June 11, 2016, and the Summit High School Girls Varsity Lacrosse Team are cases in point.
Summit didn't start their final game of the season optimally, but they finished it sublimely.
After years of hard work and dedication -- through tremendous triumphs, a handful of soul-crushing defeats, and a slew of successes in between, the Hilltoppers wait for the ultimate prize was certainly worth it.
And, after being within inches of summiting the mountain of New Jersey state girls lacrosse twice, only to fall short of the ultimate goal on each occasion, The Maroon & White have now reached their destination, planted their flag, and can now set aside their season motto of "One More" and replace it with their season's final word - Champions.
Yes, the Summit High School Girls Varsity Lacrosse Team accepted the unsaid -- but obvious to everyone -- all or nothing expectations, compartmentalized them, and churned their way through a 23-1 campaign that brought home County, Sectional, and Group titles.
That cumulative effort and set of achievements earned them a third-consecutive Tournament of Champions (TOC) Finals birth, and a game against Ridgewood, a team they have played four times in the past two years with a sum goal differential of two.
But, another phrase -- actually a quote from the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt -- "Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty," checks all of the boxes, and properly describes what it took for The Maroon & White to prevail after 57 minutes of lacrosse against the Maroons.
Senior captain Callie Humphrey drove the middle and scored with 2:42 remaining in the second overtime as Summit won its first-ever Girls TOC title, beating Ridgewood 11-10, and setting off a celebration befitting the spectacular group of young women who caused it.
Senior captain Sara Szynal scored six goals, classmates and fellow captains Humphrey and Catherine Cordrey each netted two goals, and junior Maddie Collins had seven saves in goal to fuel Summit.
The Hilltoppers had to dig deep just to keep Ridgewood within arm's reach several times during the game, then found yet an even higher gear to actually come back and take the lead, only to allow a goal inside the final minute which knotted the score, and finally saw their own chance to win in regulation stopped on the goal line with three seconds left.
The Hilltoppers began brightly, jumping out to a 1-0 lead just 47 seconds into the game when Cordrey won a Free Position opportunity, and used it to feed Szynal who scored. Less than four minutes later Alex Absey evened things for Ridgewood.
Szynal's second put Summit back in front a minute after Absey's goal, grabbing the rebound of a Julia Persche Free Position shot and beating Ridgewood's Casey Cole.
Trailing 2-1, The Maroons rode extended stretches of possession -- powered by draw control and aided by several Summit turnovers -- to boss the final 20 minutes of the half and take control of the game.
Claire Smesko scored at 17:49 to tie things at two, then Hannah Cermak and Catherine Roxas found the back of the net thirty seconds apart and it was 4-2 Ridgewood.
Szynal pulled one back at 13:15, off a sweet pass from Maggie Moriarty, but Lillie Kloak and Chelsea Trattner scored before the half ended, and the teams went to the break with Summit on the wrong side of a 6-3 score line.
If Summit was going to get back into the game, it would to need to win the ball, take care of it, and finish their chances. They would also have to find a way to turn off the Ridgewood goal faucet as trading scores would not get it done.
The Hilltoppers performance in the opening minutes of the second half read exactly like the afore-mentioned recipe for success and, less than a minute and a-half in, they had cut the lead to a single goal.
Cordrey bounced a low shot in, then Szynal -- off a Free Position opportunity -- did the same. It was 6-5, Like their last two shots, Summit's sideline was bouncing, and the large contingent of Hilltopper faithful in the stands were going bonkers.
Summit won the next draw, Cordrey blazed in, but could only find the outside-nettling with her low shot, and Ridgewood regained possession and scored when Katie Bourque found twine. Then Absey gained some space and finished, and the Maroons lead was back up to 8-5 with 17 minutes left.
Samantha Forsyth used a Free Position opportunity to set up Cordrey, but Trattner's second of the game at 12:08 restored the three-goal margin.
Just over ten minutes to go. Hot, humid day, with on-field temperature of about 95 degrees. Twenty-fifth game of the season. More than a few players nicked up playing at less than 100 percent. Tough times, indeed.
But, as the idiom goes, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going."
With their collective needle seemingly hovering on "E," Summit switched to a reserve fuel supply, and dominated the remaining 10 minutes of the game. Elevating their competitive spirit and fight, they won draw after draw, and took their chances methodically.
Humphrey's laser on a Free Position shot at 8:49 was followed by Cordrey assisting on Forsyth's tally at 29 seconds later and, just like that, it was 9-8 Ridgewood.
Cordrey, on another Free Position opportunity, brought Summit all the way back when she scored at 7:06, and then The Maroon & White grabbed the lead at 5:34 when senior captain Persche used yet another Free Position shot chance to dish to Szynal for her sixth of the game.
Summit kept winning possession and made the decision to try to play keep away for the final three minutes and see out the game. They almost made it.
A late turnover gave Ridgewood the ball, and Kloak won a Free Position shot with just 18 seconds remaining in the game. She blasted the attempt high into the goal, and it looked like the teams were headed to sudden-victory overtime.
As they had all second half, however, Summit won the ensuing draw, and Szynal earned a Free Position shot from the left side with just three seconds remaining in regulation. Cole saved her low shot inches from the goal line, and overtime beckoned.
In the first overtime, both teams had chances. Forsyth had her high shot from in close saved by Cole, and Collins made a huge save off the shaft of her goal stick, thus ushering in a second four-minute extra period.
The ball came from Persche to Humphrey who, afterwards, said, "I just wanted to make sure I caught it as the sun was in my eyes. I saw a lane, and knew everyone was 'dog tired' so I took the opportunity. I didn't know it went in at first, but then everyone was jumping on me and I realized what happened."
Humphrey said that, when trailing at halftime and deep in the second half, there was no panic in the team. "We have been there before, we were way behind Oak Knoll and came back, so we knew we had it in us. We are extremely resilient, and we rose to the occasion."
As for the meaning of the triumph to her and her teammates, especially the highly-acclaimed senior class, she said, "I know how hard we worked. Some of us have been teammates since the First Grade. It is a reward for all of our hard work."
After Humphrey scored to finally put his team over the final hurdle, Summit Head Coach Mike Walsh dropped to his knees, emotionally and physically spent. Given time to reflect on the game itself, Walsh said, "We needed the ball and we needed to settle it down and stop turning it over. When you are down, you just have to chip away. It was hot, both teams were tired, we just found a way to win the 50-50 balls and take our chances."
On the accomplishment, he said, "I have been blessed to be able to work with some great kids and the best staff. It feels really good to walk away a winner at the end of the season."
The 2016 New Jersey State Girls Lacrosse TOC-Winning Summit Hilltoppers
Season Record: 24-1
15 - Catherine Cordrey, senior - midfield (c)
24 - Mary Fischetti, senior - attack
26 - Samantha Forsyth, senior - attack
8 - Julia Harkins, senior, - midfield
21 - Callie Humphrey, senior - midfield (c)
4 - Emily Kalin - senior - midfield
14 - Maggie Moriarty, senior - attack
23 - Kathleen Morano, senior - attack
20 - Caitlin Osmulski, senior - defense
16 - Julia Persche, senior - midfield (c)
12 - Teia Ross, senior - defense (c)
33 - Kaitlin Stewart, senior - defense
22 - Morgan Strabley, senior - defense
25 - Sara Szynal, senior - attack (c)
1 - Isabel Zachara, senior - attack
44 - Maddie Collins, junior - goal
6 - Shannon Groskoph, junior - midfield
18 - Audrey Hannigan, junior - midfield
40 - Olivia Kull, junior - attack
36 - Delaney O'Dowd, junior - defense
27 - Stella Spotts, junior - defense
11 - Cecily Stabler, junior - attack
13 - Kaleigh Brennan, sophomore - defense
10 - Helen Louise Johnson, sophomore - midfield
50 - Catherine Maloney, sophomore - goal
55 - Amy Martino, sophomore - goal
9 - Emily Paytas, sophomore - attack
2 - Ava Spotts, sophomore - attack
3 - Katia Carnevale, freshman - attack
87 - Julia Szynal, freshman - midfield
77 - Katherine Tully, freshman - defense
(c) - denotes team captain
Head Coach - Mike Walsh
Assistant Coaches - Laura Cataldi, Mary Kate Renehan, and Taylor Albright