gauntlet, (noun) -- a line, series, or assemblage; especially one that poses some sort of ordeal.
SUMMIT, NJ - If, a few weeks ago, while sitting down enjoying a tasty beverage, one was to have pulled out their handy, pocket-sized Summit High School Boys Varsity Lacrosse Team 2018 schedule, they would have paused mid-sip when viewing a late-season slate of three-consecutive games against elite opponents -- Ridgewood, Moorestown, and Seton Hall Prep all back-to-back-to-back, all at home, in a span of five days.
In fact, if one tacks on the Union County Final -- which turned out to be a win versus Westfield on May 5 -- it's four fierce foes in nine days.
Many programs, if they had even one of those opponents on their calendar, would have the game circled in red. For the Hilltoppers, while each giant game presented a massive challenge and, yes, hill to climb, the mindset was one moment, one game, one opponent at a time.
Even-keeled vibe in tow, a week that was far from routine yielded matching results for the Maroon and White -- four straight wins -- including Head Coach Jim Davidson's 350th Summit career victory -- and proof that the potential for state glory -- for this team -- is beyond real.
After vanquishing the Blue Devils, the Maroons and the Quakers, Summit did its best Nathan Chen imitation -- they landed the 'Quad Flip' -- by beating Seton Hall Prep 9-6 on an it's-getting-much-warmer and humid afternoon at Investors Bank Field. The win, the Hilltopppers' sixth straight overall, ups their season record to 13-2.
Senior Tom Fischetti had four goals, while classmate and captain Will Vitton stopped 14 shots and simultaneously auditioned for Cirque du Soleil by making several of them candidates for the 'All-Acrobatic Lacrosse Goalie Highlight Reel'.
To give proper 'props' to the Hilltoppers' defensive effort on the day, they held 'The Prep' -- a team that had scored 20 or more goals in a game no less than nine times this season -- to their season-low offensive output, besting the Pirates previous low of eight goals they tallied in a win over Chatham.
Seton Hall Prep began the game like pirates when they snagged the opening face-off and scored in just 10 seconds of game clock time on a goal from Cole Kirst. It took Summit nearly eight minutes, but they got even when Fischetti netted a laser, and then the home team took the lead when senior Jack Browne punched a shot into the upper left corner with 26.1 left on the first-quarter clock.
The only goal of the second 12 minutes came just 49 seconds in, as Fischetti pumped home his second of the game. The Hilltopper defensive unit and Vitton were giving the Pirates fits, and Summit took a 3-1 lead to the break.
it was 4-1 62 ticks into the third quarter after Fischetti's Hat Trick goal and Summit appeared to be in big-time control. But Seton Hall Prep, as previously noted, can score the rock, and a team doesn't plant 20-plus goals on any team unless it can do it both often and in a hurry. Those traits were on full display in a dizzying -- for Hilltopper Nation -- 29-second stretch of the third quarter when three Pirate goals took a 4-1 game and made it 4-4 tout de suite.
After taking three body blows literally in succession, Summit dug in but surrendered a fifth goal a few minutes later and now trailed, 5-4. Then, in a wow-inducing 90 seconds of lacrosse, the teams combined for three goals. Fischetti's fourth tied the game at 5-5 only to see Seton Hall Prep deliver what seemed a hammer-blow of a reply with less than 30-seconds remaining in the frame to re-take the lead, 5-4. However, in a game of key moments, the Hilltopper senior Nick Thomson scored with just eight-tenths of a second left, meaning the teams would head to the final 12 minutes tied, 6-6.
Opening the sports cliche handbook and skimming the chapter entitled 'tied game heading to fourth quarter' leads to the following selections, in order -- next goal is big; next goal after that is really, really big; and. next goal after that is massive.
Summit checked all of those milestone markers, as Thomson, junior Gray Humprhrey and senior Eamon McTernan, all were on the business end of Hilltopper scoring plays. Vitton was still doing cartwheels in goal, and the gauntlet was successfully run.
"I think today's game says a lot about our team," said Davidson. "Against a great team on a really warm day, guys just stepped up. Will makes some big-time saves at really key times and we just wanted to make sure that we took the best shot possible when had the ball. The win makes us feel good, but we can't be satistfied."
The Hilltoppers, who with the win earned a share of the Fitch-Pitt Division Title, have been seeded number one in the NJSIAA North, Group 2 Bracket. They will now begin tournament play May 19 versus 16-seed Governor Livingston May 16 at 4:30 p.m.
and select entries