GREEN VILLAGE, NJ - At each end of the soccer continuum lie the adages 'Life is What You Make of It' and 'Life Isn't Fair' -- the former being the affirmational and the latter occupying the harsh, with each occupying the one 'pole' of the axis.
Yes, the beautiful game has a dark side, with equal parts joy and bliss balance by proportionate segments of disappointment and despair. And often, to further amplify matters, it offers but a binary choice.
The full lesson plan of Soccer Life 101 was displayed on the pristine natural grass surface of the Chatham Fields, where Summit traveled to take on Oak Knoll. If, in soccer, 'Life is What You Make of It', the Maroon and White should have hopped back on their bus post-match buoyed by a winning-performance driven via the prodigious work rate put forth by every player who took the pitch.
It was hot. It was sticky. Summit was gritty, determined and disciplined. Then they got sucker-punched by two late goals, the last of which came just minutes into overtime and they returned back to the Hilltop City on the wrong end of 2-1 scoreline.
In soccer, far too often, 'Life Isn't Fair.'
Playing a textbook road match -- in a contest that was originally scheduled to be played on the Upper Turf Field, but which had to be relocated due to an scheduling issue -- the Hilltoppers were sturdy and airtight in a first half that saw them score the only goal and prevent the Royals from generating nary a chance.
The Summit goal came from a free kick in the 19th minute just inside the halfway line. Freshman Skye Gilbert lofting the ball deep into the right corner of the Oak Knoll penalty area where it took a kangaroo bounce off the turf and then found the head of sophomore Keegan Mayer who nodded home.
The lead was deserved, and the Hilltoppers looked the more confident side throughout the half, although neither team really created a clear-cut chance after Mayer's goal.
The second half saw Summit play a less progressive style of play and soon found themselves sitting deeper and deeper in their own half. An injury to centerback Claire Murdock forced Gilbert out of the midfield and into central defense, which further caused the Hilltoppers to go into lockdown mode.
Still, Summit's effort in chasing down loose balls and closing down their opponents -- especially given the steamy conditions -- was something to see, notably a stellar effort from strikers Kelsey Space and Mayer, who were frequently chasing down 'lost causes' and doing their best to keep Oak Knoll honest defensively.
However, as a team, Summit rarely went forward, and was therefore inviting danger from the home side as the clock drained down.
With just over three minutes left, a high shot from the right-hand side found the back of the Summit net. The hammer blow leveled the score and, even though the Hilltoppers saw out the remainder of normal time, they faced a 10-minute overtime.
Looking like the needle on their emotional and physical tanks was bobbing on 'E', Summit began the extra period, and soon it was over. A ball skittered across the Summit penalty area and a first-time, right-footed strike found the roof of the goal.
Summit, now 3-3 on the season, next travels to Villa Walsh Academy September 20 to take on the Vikings. The match kicks off at 4 p.m.