WEST ORANGE, NJ - Like most sports, prep lacrosse is -- from a team results standpoint -- a binary business. The yield is either a win or a loss. And, when asking a true competitor, they will undoubtedly say that -- no matter the quality of the performance -- winning is the name of the game and a loss is a loss.
Neutral observers however, those who don't have a horse in the race, can be a bit more esoteric. There are commanding wins, ugly wins and everything in between, just as there are bad losses, tough losses and -- stay with us here -- good losses.
For the sake of this premise, a good loss is defined as a game when the team -- from top to bottom -- left it all out on the field, thumbed their collective noses at the odds, injuries and other slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and did their jersey, badge, teammates, coaches, school, parents and -- most importantly -- themselves proud.
Now, the Summit High School Boys Varsity Lacrosse Team has made a habit of competing for division, group, section and state honors, so losing ain't generally part of the equation. The Maroon and White have now lost two games in a row, but the difference between the performance versus state number-three ranked Delbarton -- a dispiriting 15-5 setback -- and the one they delivered while falling at number-two ranked Seton Hall Prep is pretty much night and day.
Bulldozed early and trailing 3-0, The 'Top scratched and clawed their way back to make it a one-goal game in the fourth quarter. Summit could not find the equalizer, however, and ended up dropping an 8-5 decision to the Pirates. The loss puts the Hilltoppers' season mark at 7-2 and gives them a split of the four-game gauntlet that brought consecutive matchups versus Chatham, Westfield, Delbarton and The 'Prep.
Senior Gray Humphrey had a Hat Trick for Summit, and classmate Tyler Hadley made nine saves in goal -- including eight in a brick wall second-half that contributed mightily to the Hilltoppers getting back in the game and nearly drawing even.
Kyle Stephenson, Cullen Wolff and Luke Blanc each had two goals for Seton Hall Prep.
Against the Pirates, Summit -- as they were in their previous game versus Delbarton -- again found themselves on the wrong end of a three-goal, first-quarter blitz and three-goal deficit at halftime. The game wasn't three minutes old and Seton Hall Prep led 3-0 and the visitors looked wobbly, but sophomore Luke Dinola got a goal at the 4:29 mark, assisted by senior captain Skyler Schluter, and the Hilltoppers got their legs under them.
Goals from Schluter and Humphrey in the second quarter still left Summit in a two-goal hole, but they had the ball inside the half's final two minutes with a chance to make it a one-goal tilt. Dinola hit the base of the right post, and the Pirates grabbed the carom and went down the field to score at the horn. From a Hilltopper Nation perspective it was a massive bummer, and the home team went to the break with a 6-3 lead.
As the clouds rolled in and the sky darkened, Summit signaled they would not go gentle into that good night. Tyler and the defensive curtain in front of him were stoning the Pirates and, when Humphrey scored at the 8:45 mark and then blasted home again less than two-and-a-half minutes later, there was 6:09 left to go in the third quarter and suddenly,the Seton Hall Prep lead was just a goal, 6-5.
Both teams had multiple possessions through the end of the third and into the final frame, and one got the feeling the next goal would dictate which squad would emerge victorious. That hunch proved prophetic, as Seton Hall Prep's Connell Kumar scored with 7:48 left in the contest. The Pirates got another goal with 2:16 left for a scoreline that, in truth, flattered the home team.
Summit left with an 'L', but also with the knowledge that -- while there are key areas of their game to improve -- they now possess an established blueprint illustrating the level of passion and character necessary to hang with any team.
Next up for Summit (7-2) is an April 25 matchup versus Glen Rock at Tatlock Park. Face-off is set for 4:30 p.m.