SUMMIT, NJ - About the best one could ask for out of early 'springtime in Jersey' is a 50-plus degree cloudless day.
About the best Summit High School Varsity Lacrosse Head Coach Jim Davidson could ask for from his Hilltoppers on opening day is a well-earned win over a fellow elite program.
Sure the gusty wind was -- at times -- pretty stiff at Brendan P. Tevlin Field, but so was the opposition -- the Seton Hall Prep Pirates.
All in all, the weather was beautiful and, from a Maroon & White perspective, so was the result. Summit got a Hat Trick from senior Chris Fowler, two goals each from senior captain Corey McManus and junior Harry Kilkowski, some typically stout defense anchored by a mostly re-built defensive unit, and a strong half-of-game each from both Will Vitton and Patrick Moriarty in goal, all of which combined for an 8-6 victory over 'The Prep."
Befitting two quality opponents, the game was a punch / counter-punch affair, with Summit able to build no more than a two-goal lead -- which can evaporate in an instant in a high-end lacrosse game -- until the midway point of the fourth quarter. Still, especially for a season-opener, the Hilltoppers played with confidence when leading, kept their mistakes to a minimum, and capitalized at key moments.
Mid-season stuff in game one and, while it is just game one, all promising signs for the boys from the 07901.
While the game was a battle of area lacrosse titans, the importance of the competition was put in perspective during a pre-game ceremony in which the host school dedicated their renovated playing surface as Brendan P. Tevlin Field, in honor the Class of 2013 graduate whose life was senselessly taken when he was shot and killed while sitting in his family car stopped at a traffic signal in West Orange nearly three years ago. Both teams rimmed the center circle logo for the solemn ceremony.
Summit began the game brightly when, after Seton Hall Prep won the opening face-off, they regained possession and Kilkowski found the back of the net at the 10:34 mark. The lead lasted just over 90 seconds, however, as the Pirates' Griffin Westlin equalized, the Seton Prep took the lead with 6:41 left in the opening quarter through Richie Radici.
Good teams capitalize at key moments -- no matter what point the game is at -- and the Hilltoppers did just that when Kilkowski fed Fowler with but nine seconds left in the frame, knotting things at 2-2.
Summit cranked it up a notch in the second quarter, owning much more of the ball than their opponent, and they cashed in twice. McManus scored while on one knee at 9:30 to give the Hilltoppers back the lead, then Fowler got his second of the afternoon when he curled out from behind the goal and buried a laser that made it 4-2 Summit 32 second later. At the half, Summit held a 16-9 shot advantage and a two-goal lead.
The tales were turned in the early stages of the second half, and the Pirates stormed back to tie the game. Luke Blanc narrowed Summit's lead to a lone goal two minutes in then, in a moment far more dramatic than what it meant on the scoreboard, Brian Tevlin -- Brendan's brother -- tied the game at the 7:02 mark.
The Hilltoppers responded to the Seton Hall Prep surge by getting back-to-back goals 70 seconds apart via McManus and Fowler. McManus bettered his circus-like first goal, with a circus maximum-like tally that saw him score while virtually in a supine position.
Westlin's second of the day for the Pirates with 2:43 left made it 6-5 Summit, which is the way the third quarter ended.
A big moment happened right off the opening face-off to start the fourth quarter when captain Finn McTernan broke in and scored. The 'long pole' goal was followed four minutes later by a right-handed rip that clanged in off the right goalpost from Kilkowski to make it 8-5 Hilltoppers, the three-goal lead seeming a heckuva lot larger than the two-goal advantage they had previously held.
Seton Hall Prep cut the lead back to two through Blanc's second of the game late-on, but Summit held fast and left with a big 'W'.
The Hilltoppers shaded the Pirates at the face-off 'X', 9-8, and enjoyed a 29-22 edge in shots at target. The teams split the ground ball stat, with 14 wins apiece. Moriatry (7) and Vitton (3) combined for 10 saves.
"I thought we handled things as best as could be expected," said Davidson. "We played hard, and they have a lot of offensive weapons, but we created some good opportunities. We put in some situational things, on both offense and defense, over the last week, and we rotated a number of kids in today to keep guys fresh. We just need to get everyone comfortable playing together, which comes with time."
Summit goes from 'the frying pan into the fire', next traveling to Delbarton April 1 for an 11 a.m. face-off.