Sports

Rush Delivery: After Sluggish First Half, Summit High Girls Lacrosse Hurries Up and Beats Northern Highlands, 12-6

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"I'm Batgirl." Credits: SNS Design
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NORTH CALDWELL, NJ - Doing their best Franz Anton Mesmer imitation, the Highlanders of Northern Highlands High School had spent the opening stages of the first half of their NJSIAA State Tournament Group 3 Semifinal Game against the Summit High School Girls Varsity Lacrosse Team making the Hilltoppers 'very sleepy'.

Their get possession, slow down, uber-deliberate pace seemed to lull Summit into the lacrosse version of a hypnotic trance and, before Hilltopper Head Coach Mike Walsh could snap his fingers -- loudly -- and summon his squad back to lucid reality, the girls from the 07901 trailed 3-0.

Furthermore, there were less than nine minutes to go in the half and Summit still had not scored. When that dynamic last occurred was anyone's guess. So, for supporters of The Maroon and White, the experience was as annoyingly mesmerizing as it was for the players on the field.

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The induced slumber was however -- like one found in a Vegas lounge act -- temporary. Summit started to win the ball, then they go on the ball, rolling the Highlanders 9-1 in the second half and pulling away to win 12-6 at West Essex High School.

Five Hilltoppers -- Julia Szynal, Anna Turk, Katia Carnevale, Helen Louise Johnson and Anna Huntley-Robertson -- all scored twice, and Maddie Collins in goal was credited with six saves for Summit, which improved to 18-2 on the season.

The victory sets up a massive Group 3 Final match-up versus Moorestown June 3 at Kean University. Game time is set for 4 p.m., with Kean located at 1000 Morris Avenue in Union.

The game's dynamic and vibe was, well, less than dynamic. Few fans for either side made the trip to the less-than-geographically-desirable destination and, while there was some mist in the air, intensity there was not.

Summit was having difficulty getting the ball, and Northern Highlands was playing primarily perimeter lacrosse offensively forcing the Hilltoppers to defend for long stretches.

On the few occasions when Summit did have the ball, they were disjointed and somewhat sloppy and were not creating quality looks at goal.

The Highlanders' Julia Bradbury popped in a goal, then another and, when her teammate Lauren Donato scored, it was 3-0 and the Hilltoppers looked lethargic and perplexed.

Turk finally got Summit on the board at the 8:48 mark of the opening half, and after Carnevale and Johnson tied things up at 3-3, it looked like normal service had been restored.

What was restored, however, was 'Furrowed Brow Syndrome' on the visages of the Summit faithful that did make the journey, as Northern Highlands' Kate Callaghan scored twice in the half's final 41 seconds to make it 5-3 Highlanders at the break.

The front desk wake-up call must have arrived during Head Coach Mike Walsh's halftime team talk, as an energized, proactive and faster-paced Summit came out in the second half and played like they are known to play.

Turk cut the deficit to one 34 seconds into the second half, but then neither team could find the back of the net for more than nine minutes.

When the next goal came it arrived from the Highlanders' Bradbury, who bumped their lead back up to two goals with 15:23 remaining.

That tally, however, would be Northern Highlands last of the game and Summit was -- at last -- about to get rolling.

Back-to-back goals 82 seconds apart from Szynal tied the score at 6-6. The sophomore was a catalyst for Summit's second-half surge, making plays everywhere on the field.

At one point, she swooped in like Batgirl landing on a rooftop to collect a draw. Her 'refuse to lose' attitude was infectious, and soon the goal party went viral.

The Hilltoppers slotted five goals in the next six minutes, sealing the story of this 'tale of two halves' affair. Senior captain Cecily Stabler, Carnevale's second, Huntley Robertson, Johnson's second, and senior captain Stella Spotts were all part of the mini goalfest.

Huntley-Robertson placed the cherry on the sundae with her second goal inside the game's final minute.

"I think we lost our poise a bit in the first half," said Walsh. "We cannot let the other team dictate the the play if we are going be successful moving forward."

In addition to just old-fashioned better play, Walsh said the difference in the second half was that "we made some adjustments and we got the ball." Noting Szynal's impact on the game he said flatly, "She is a competitive kid. She doesn't want to lose."

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