SUMMIT, NJ - There have been a number of compelling story lines associated with the Summit High School Girls Varsity Lacrosse Team this season.
How will they manage the weight of being the defending Tournament of Champions victor? How will the 'Kiddie Corps' -- consisting of a cadre of talented sophomores -- handle stepping up to the front lines? And, how are they going to replace the super senior armada that sailed away from the Kent Place Boulevard campus due to graduation?
In a nutshell, the answers are: with ease and poise; by exceeding expectations -- they are even better than advertised; and, through evolution -- becoming their own team with their own identity -- and learning from the greatness that came before them.
There is one other captivating thread -- more like a developing matter, actually -- to the tale that has emerged with gusto in the past six weeks or so. One that wasn't necessarily on the table of contents of the Hilltopper 'book', but has become no less mesmerizing than the afore-mentioned themes.
That plot line? The rapid and continuing ascension of junior Helen Louise Johnson's game to a level encroaching on elite status. While already an extremely talented player and key contributor, Johnson has become a dynamic influence, capable of taking over a game.
Johnson's latest tour de force performance saw her scoring six times, four of which came in the opening 25 minutes, as Summit built a seven-goal first-half lead en route to a 13-6 win over Chatham in the NJSIAA North 2, Group 3 Final on the Upper Turf Field.
While Johnson did a big part of the damage, it was a complete team performance that did in the Cougars. Five other Hilltoppers found the back of the net, with senior captain Cecily Stabler and Katia Carnevale each scoring twice. Maddie Collins finished with seven saves in goal.
Summit frequently turned over Chatham, and put in a stellar defensive performance, especially for the final 20 minutes of the first half when The Maroon and White built their big lead and seized control of the contest.
Trophy number one in hand, Summit -- now 17-2 on the season -- will now face Northern Highlands May 30 at West Essex High School. Game time is set for 6:30 p.m.
The first five minutes of the tilt were back-and-forth, with each team scoring twice. Carnevale and Stabler goals were offset by a pair of Chatham scores.
Like their first match-up against the Cougars on April 21, Summit was coming out on the wrong end of most draws but, contrary to that game, they started getting stops and turning over Chatham, and soon momentum would be on the side of the home team in a big way.
Beginning at the 18-minute mark and concluding with 60 seconds left on the clock before halftime, the Hilltoppers would pot seven unanswered goals. Four of those scores would come from Johnson, with Carnevale, Stabler and Julia Szynal also hitting twine.
The horn sounded, capping a masterclass performance by Summit over the last 20 minutes of play that, while it may not have officially turned out the lights on Chatham's season, it left their glow precariously flickering.
The second half was a case of the Hilltoppers needing to manage the game and, for the first time on this day, their inexperience showed itself a bit. They did maneuver their way through 25 minutes that yielded four goals for each team and, while Summit Head Coach Mike Walsh won't be totally enamored with every aspect of the final-half performance, even the occasional wobble presents a teachable moment.
Anna Turk, Anna Griffith, and the fifth and six snipes from Johnson comprised the Summit output.
"We had our trouble on the draw, but we turned them over on the defensive end and in transition," said Walsh. "We ran a lot of different offensive sets and our kids did a good job adjusting. That gave us some open looks and we found the (back of the) net."
A relatively muted post-game celebration speaks to Summit's big-picture aspirations. "We set a number of goals at the start of the season," said Walsh. 'This is one of them. We check the box and move on."