Delbarton punches ticket to TOC final
Delbarton got things started the right way in its previous meeting with Summit, but could not see it through beyond the wall erected that day by its opponent's zone defense.
This time, Delbarton came better equipped with both better climbing shoes and some strong cinder blocks of its own to stack up in front of the goal.
Sean Donnelly and John Shaffer scored two goals apiece in the first half and junior goalie John Schisler lent steady support to a stifling zone defense that sent third-seeded Delbarton, No. 3 in The MSG Varsity Power Rankings, to a 5-1 upset win over second-seeded and No. 2 Summit in the semifinals of the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions Wednesday night at Kean University in Union.
The Green Wave (16-6) snapped a five-game losing streak against Summit (20-2) and qualified for its first T of C final since 2009, when they fell to these same Hilltoppers. They will battle top-seeded and top-ranked Bridgewater-Raritan at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Kean. Summit, T of C champs in 2009 and '10, failed to reach the finals for the first time in four years.
Delbarton built a 2-0 lead in the first quarter with goals by Kevin Lewis and Donnelly and found itself in the identical position it was in last month in a regular season game against Summit.
But in that first meeting, Delbarton suddenly went flat against Summit's zone and fell, 9-4. This time, some new wrinkles had been pumped into both the offense and defense--a rare zone from start to finish--and the Green Wave lead was stretched to 5-0 by the end of the half.
"We knew they were gonna come out working hard and we knew we had to come out working harder than them. That’s all we really concentrated on," Donnelly said. "We knew that we were going to want to hold the ball and make sure they didn’t have opportunities on defense like they had the last time."
That first half was an absolute clinic on how to establish the lead and then play keep-away from an opponent that generally does an outstanding job with the ball in its stick. Summit came in averaging 11.57 goals a game and yet was limited to only three shots in the first half.
"They like to score on the pipes, which we knew," Delbarton senior defenseman Kohl Geibel said. " So we thought, let's bring more guys down to the pipe; the lower defenders held the pipes and it worked great. We got together first quarter and said, 'Do you want to go with zone to start? and we said OK.' It kept working, so we didn’t need to go to man."
Summit found vexing double teams and encountered resounding stick checks throughout the first half as it stumbled offensively against the zone. The Hilltoppers formed much better ideas of how to attack it in the second half, but Schisler had some thoughts of his own. So did junior faceoff man Austin Williams, who dominated in the circle by claiming 8 of 10 for Delbarton. He'd also sparkled in the regular-season clash with Summit, but his club could not properly utilize his brilliant work that day.
A revived Summit unleashed six shots in the third quarter, but had three of them rejected by Schisler. The Hilltoppers finally broke through when Austin Carbone converted a feed by Tom Lackaye late in the third quarter to break a 34:28 scoring drought.
"Unbelievable, especially against Summit, one of the best offenses in the nation I suppose," Donnelly said. "To have our goalie John Schisler play that well and for our defense to play that great, it's just so amazing. It means so much and shows how much heart we have and much we really want this."
Delbarton erased all questions of its desire when it stormed back from a four-goal deficit late in regulation to shock Don Bosco Prep in overtime, 8-7, for the Non-Public A title May 30. That was confirmation of the Green Wave's ability and determination, but also a fully comprehended cautionary tale.
"After Don Bosco we realized how quickly this can all end," Shaffer said. "We’re just trying to have fun with each other, no matter the outcome, and I think that showed today. Just playing for each other and having fun. It's great to still be playing with these guys."
Shaffer and Donnelly both extended credit to Summit for shutting out the Green Wave offense in the second half. But it must be pointed out that a lack of shots by Delbarton was a significant part of the plan once the lead was established. Delbarton attempted just six shots in the half, but finished with an 18-15 advantage for the game.
"We had some new plays for his game and I think they were starting to learn our plays," Donnelly said. " At first that's why we were scoring. We were coming at them and they really didn’t know what we were doing. Second half they were able to stop it a little better, but we just wanted it so much and that really helped us."
Mike Kinney covers boys lacrosse for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeKinneyHS