CLARK, NJ - When they find themselves pitted against top teams in big moments -- like their Union County Tournament semifinal against Westfield, for example -- it would be a gross exaggeration to say the Summit High School Boys Varsity Soccer Team has to deliver a perfect performance in order to get a result.
While a flawless operation is always the aspiration, against the truly upper-echelon teams -- a category whose door the Maroon and White, themselves, are and have been knocking on for a while -- it is vital to the cause to not make any seismic defensive errors, take their chances offensively -- as they likely will be limited in number -- and mirror or exceed the energy and intensity levels brought by the opponent.
Versus the Blue Devils, the adherence to parts of that three-point plan were spotty, and so the accompanying result was not the one Hilltopper Nation wanted, as defensive mistakes and mishaps directly contributed to two Westfield goals, the second of which proved to be the match-winner as the Blue Devils defeated Summit, 3-1 at AL Johnson High School.
Down 2-nil in the second-half, Summit's Delmer Argeñal scored in the 55th minute but, despite pressing forward and having the territorial advantage the final 20 minutes of the match, the only remaining goal would come off the boot of a Blue Devil inside the contest's final minute.
As was the case in their regular season meeting 16 days ago, Summit looked a bit overwhelmed by Westfield's speed and physicality early-on, a spell that saw the Blue Devils hit the woodwork twice.
Around the 20-minute mark, Summit seemed to come into the match, just in time to see Westfield take the lead on a strange play that began on a Westfield throw-in deep in the Hilltopper end on the left side.
When the long-throw catapulted into the box, Summit committed the cardinal sin of penalty area defending when they let the ball bounce. To make matters worse, for those supporting the 07901ers, the ball bounced twice, ending up at the right post and then into the back of the net.
The question at hand then became, was it a throw-in or a throw-IN, as in did any player get a touch on it before it went over the goal line. If not, no goal. The referee ruled a Blue Devil -- Jack Dobosiewicz -- got a part of his boot on it and was 1-nil Westfield, much to the dismay of Hilltopper head man Ashley Sularz, whose protests were turned away.
A physical, hyper vibe settled in for the remainder of the opening 40 minutes, but the score remained unchanged as the teams headed to the break. Summit came back onto the pitch for the second half knowing that the next goal of the game would go a long way toward deciding the tilt's outcome.
After 10 minutes of, predominantly, midfield tangling, a calamitous miscommunication in the back resulted in Westfield's Andrew Echausse collecting an errant ball and literally walking it into the the Summit goal.
Doubled-over -- both literally and on the scoreboard -- from the moment, Summit was in need of a lifeline and got one with 25 minutes left in the match when Westfield goalkeeper Jack Mendelson spilled what looked to be a routine cross and Argeñal was first on the scene, pouncing to push the ball into the net and, in the process, punch the Hilltoppers' way back into the match.
Mendelson redeemed himself in spades 10 match minutes later when he came out to his right, made himself 'big', and stopped Kieran McKeown's right-footed attempt from 10 yards out.
That turned out of be Summit's last, best chance on the night and, as they were chasing the match, Dobosiewicz got his second with 18 ticks left on the clock. Summit thought the goal was offside but, like Westfield's first score, the goal stood.
Summit, now 10-6 on the season, next travels to Linden October 24. Match kick-off is set for 4 p.m.