SUMMIT, NJ - Ten months ago, the Summit Hilltoppers boys lacrosse team stood at midfield on the campus of Rutgers University in Piscataway and celebrated a state title after they won a memorable rematch over top-ranked Delbarton. The 8-4 triumph capped a remarkable season for head coach Jim Davidson and his team, a season in which Summit won 22 consecutive games and set many individual and team records along the way to an Iron Hills conference title, the Union County Tournament title, the aforementioned New Jersey Group II state championship and a win in the New Jersey Tournament of Champions. Yet for all the accolades they racked up last season, when the final horn sounded, it meant the end of a dream season. It also meant waiting. Nearly a year of waiting before Davidson and his re-tooled line-up could take the field for a meaningful game again. On Thursday afternoon at Metro Homes Field in Summit, the Hilltoppers finally put those ten months behind them and promptly opened the 2010 season with a convincing, 12-5 victory over the visiting Randolph Rams.
"We were really anxious to get going. Obviously it's a long pre-season [with the] scrimmaging. It's tough. You just want to get ready and get out here and play so we were excited about getting out and playing today," Summit head coach Jim Davidson said after the game.
The Hilltoppers wasted little time as they cracked the score sheet just 1:14 into the game when Marcel Godino made a slick move at the top of the box when he spun away from his defender and fired a laser of a shot over Randolph goaltender Wes Odell's left shoulder to give Summit the early 1-0 advantage. It was the first of Godino's three scores on the afternoon.
Jake Hall followed Godino's opening goal with a tally of his own after he sealed his defender on his backside and fired a low, bouncing shot between Odell's legs at the 5:31 mark of the first period. All-State midfielder John Scioscia - who set up three goals on the afternoon and scored two more - notched his first goal of the season when he got inside the Randolph zone defense and beat Odell in tight on a quick shot at 6:39 of the first quarter.
Randolph got on the board with two goals in the final 3:54, but Summit added another Scioscia goal on a blistering shot from long range and the Hilltoppers led 4-2 at the end of the first quarter.
"Randolph gave us a bunch of different looks today, the played zone. They threw everything at us. We were prepared for that. I thought our kids did a nice job, we were patient and took our time. We were adjusting to what they were giving us and I thought for the most part we did a nice job," Davidson said.
From that point on, Summit absolutely dominated the game in all stages as they controlled possession, scored seven unanswered goals, and played airtight defense. The Hilltoppers opened up an 11-3 lead by the time the fourth quarter got underway, thanks in no small part to the play of defensemen Bobby Lawerence among others. Lawerence - the captain of the Hilltoppers' hockey team - played a bruising style of defense and also chipped in a highlight-reel goal when he scored from long distance after joining the offensive rush with 1:32 remaining in the first half to give Summit a five-goal lead at the time. On several occasions, Lawerence threw checks and used his stick to force turnovers - skills he has no doubt perfected on the ice - and at one point raced back to foil a Randolph breakaway when the game was still somewhat close.
It was certainly a solid all-around performance by the senior defender and his head coach took notice. "Bobby is just a great player," Davidson said. "He's a great competitor, he's on ball and he can stop a lot of people. And in between the lines - the ground balls, picking up balls and then pressing down on the offensive end, he does a great job. So he's an all-around just a great defensive player. He's just a tremendous player for us."
Though the Rams punched in three goals in the final quarter, the game was already firmly in Summit's grasp by that point. When the buzzer sounded, the Hilltoppers had outshot the Rams, 29-17. Summit also held advantages in ground balls (39-22) and face-offs (12-9).
Yet even though they had beaten a quality opponent soundly in the season's first game, Davidson saw plenty of room for improvement. "We have to improve on still clearing the ball," Davidson said. "I thought we got a little sloppy in the fourth quarter. We also have to improve on possessing the ball and valuing the ball. We just have to keep running our offense and we have a good opportunity to win the game."
Now that they have begun their title defense and have started their march toward a second straight set of season-ending championships, Davidson and his team know that they must prepare harder before the game and execute at the highest level during the game because it is well-known that the defending champion always faces each and every opponent's toughest test. The bulls-eye is always bigger on the backs of the champs, but a veteran team like Summit will surely be ready as the 2010 season rolls onward.