SUMMIT, NJ - Starting strong and finishing stronger, the Summit High School Girls Varsity Lacrosse Team broke open a tight game in the second half, pulling away with a seven goal closing run that catapulted them to a 14-5 victory over Chatham.
The win earns top-seeded Summit, now 21-1, the NJSIAA North Group 3 Sectional Championship and a trip to the Group Final, where The Maroon & White will take on fourth-seeded Moorestown June 4 at Kean University. Game time is set for 4 p.m.
Senior captain Sara Szynal had four goals, fellow classmate and captain Catherine Cordrey as well as senior Samantha Forsyth both had Hat Tricks, and junior Maddie Collins was massive in goal, making 12 saves.
As they have in their previous NJSIAA Tournament games, the Hilltoppers jumped on their opponents early, in this case taking a 3-0 lead on the Cougars in the opening three-plus minutes of action.
Sara Szynal opened the scoring just 29 seconds into the game, and Forsyth doubled the advantage just over two minutes later. Senior captain Julia Persche drew a double team and dished to Cordrey who finished high a half-minute later, and Summit was flying at 3-0.
Abby Morgan got Chatham on the board at the 10:17 mark, but Cordrey restored the three-goal cushion at the 8:31 mark, and then freshman Julia Szynal found junior Cecily Stabler who beat Gizzy Saul at 7:05 and the Hilltoppers were up 5-1.
The Hilltoppers, who were owning draw control early, began to lose the possession battle in the latter stages of the first half, and the Cougars struck back via consecutive goals 48 seconds apart from Emilie DeKeyzer and Zoe Kraus, the latter coming with 4:15 left.
Summit went to the break ahead 5-3, but left a bunch of goal on the table, as they continued to try and beat Saul up high, a strategy that didn't pay the dividends their opening-half play deserved.
Losing the first draw of the second half, Summit got a big stop from Collins, the type of play that tends to get lost in a recap of a nine-goal win, but it was a decisive moment in the contest.
Forsyth scored at 21:51, only to see Kraus answer for Chatham a minute later. Sara Szynal then beat Kat Friday -- who replaced Saul in the Cougar goal to start the second half -- as she was being knocked to the turf, but Kraus' third of the game trimmed the lead back two goals at 7-5.
The Hilltoppers less-than-crisp finishing in the first half may have cost them some goals, but they found their scoring boots in the final 15 minutes of the game, and the relentless pressure they applied seemed to weaken and -- eventually -- break their opponents.
Senior captain Callie Humphrey, off a Free Position opportunity, threw off the Cougar defense, cutting hard to her left from the left side and firing home to make it 8-5.
Sara Szynal, Isabel Zachara, and Maggie Moriarty -- via a sweet pass from Zachara -- then all found the back of the net, making it 11-5 with 10:02 remaining and setting up the knockout punch.
The roundhouse came in the form of a power move from Cordrey, Forsyth's Hat Trick goal assisted by Zachara, and Sara Szynal's fourth.
Afterwards, a clearly focused Summit Head Coach Mike Walsh pointed to his team's execution and endurance as key factors in the win. "It is easier to win when you have the ball, and we shot better in the second half, finished our chances. We also wanted to keep pushing the ball on offense, take what they were giving us, which I think wore them down."
Of his diminutive goalie who is making a habit of standing on her head, Walsh said, "I think she is dialed in, and playing with a lot of confidence."
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