Summit looked very much like its buttoned-up self Thursday afternoon with its familiar zone defense and deliberate settled offense.
But as closely as the Hilltoppers adhered to their usual winning formula, this game was not going to be only about business.
Nah, this was kind of personal.
Junior middie Austin Carbone scored three goals and assisted on a fourth, senior attackman Nick Kilkowski recorded two goals and three assists and senior goalie Alex Salazar turned away 10 shots to carry undefeated Summit, No. 14 in the MSG Varsity Tri-State Lax Top 20, to a 9-6 win over Long Island's Cold Spring Harbor at Rutgers University in Piscataway.
The Hilltoppers, mind you, hold no specific animosity toward Cold Spring Harbor, or even Long Island, in general. They just recognize the high national regard that is held for good New York squads and wouldn't mind a slice for themselves.
"We tried to make it a little personal between Long Island, and not giving New Jersey lacrosse enough respect," the Rutgers-bound Kilkowski said. "We just said we're gonna come out here and try to beat these guys from opening whistle and plays our butts off the whole game."
Cold Spring Harbor (4-3) is a Nassau County Class C team and not currently considered among the upper echelon of Long Island lacrosse. Still, this is a solid program with a winning tradition and a roster filled with highly skilled, Division 1 athletes.
Summit (5-0), No. 2 behind Bridgewater-Raritan in the New Jersey Power Rankings, is indeed at the top of the lax pecking order in the Garden State, having won three consecutive group state titles and consecutive Tournament of Champions crowns in 2009 and '10. The Hilltoppers' 68-game winning streak, snapped by Bridgewater in the T of C final last June, is the longest ever in New Jersey.
Hard to find anything negative in all that, though Summit was occasionally panned for not scheduling L.I. opponents the way Delbarton, Mountain Lakes, Ridgewood and some others do each year. Summit's last game against such a club was a 6-5 victory over this same Cold Spring Harbor program early in the 2009 season. In fact, that was the second game of the Hilltoppers' mammoth winning streak.
"Summit's a good team. Well-coached, very disciplined," Cold Spring Harbor head coach Dennis Bonn said. "They took the early lead and they capitalized on (extra-man opportunities) and we didn't. We got the first, but then missed the next two. It came down to some of the little things that they took care of and we didn't."
Bucknell-bound attackman Sean Doyle netted three goals and had one assist, senior middie Danny Simonetti (Navy) scored twice and assisted once and junior middie Allen Winkoff (Ohio State verbal) had one goal for Bonn's Seahawks. But they had tremendous trouble navigating Summit's zone in the first half, managing only six shots and falling behind, 4-1.
"Even though they did exactly what we thought they were going to do, when you don't play against it you’re not as prepared as you'd like to be," Bonn said. "It definitely causes a little bit of a problem."
Cold Spring Harbor was able to generate some transition opportunities in the second half through an improved ride and a more emphatic approach to loose balls. But when Summit was able to force the Seahawks into a six-on-six game, that nasty zone usually won out.
"Second half they definitely came out with a better offense, but we just continued to preach the same things," Summit defenseman Will Weber (Holy Cross) said. "Get on the hands, rotate hard, make sure we have the slide, communicate, and get turnovers and get the ball back to the offense."
Salazar did a splendid job of returning the ball to his buddies downfield by making eight of his 10 saves in the second half. He halted six alone in the fourth quarter, including two after Simonetti had pulled the Seahawks to within 8-6 with 4:55 to go in the contest. Summit built the lead back to three goals 2:35 later on a wrap-around by Carbone.
"Number 9 (Doyle) and No. 40 (Simonetti) can bring the heat; probably the hardest shots I've seen all year," Salazar said. "They turned on the intensity in the second half and we had to answer back. We had to make some key stops and did, especially after they scored on us."
Simonetti pulled the Seahawks to within 5-3 in transition off a feed by Doyle with 6:28 to go in the third quarter. Celmer connected with a 16-yard shot off a pass by Kilkowski 1:01 later for a 6-3 Summit lead. Doyle scored with 2:34 left to make it 6-4, but Carbone raised the lead back to three off a feed by Liam Menning on an EMO with 42 seconds remaining.
"Our resilience is amazing," Weber said. "We just don't ever put our heads down. We keep our heads up, battle on the wings, win the next faceoff and answer the goal. That's what we wanted to do: keep our heads up, possess the ball and don't have any turnovers."
Cold Spring Harbor came in with a highly considered faceoff man in Hofstra-bound Giovanni Girardi, yet the Summit combination of Ryan Bringewatt (Holy Cross) and Tom Lackaye (Marist) presented different qualities to the senior and wound up with an 11-7 advantage for the game. The Hilltoppers were clutch on the draw, too, winning all five in the second half following Seahawk goals.
"We knew this was gonna be a tough game. They have athletes and shooters all over the field," Kilkowski said. "They're gonna make plays, so we've just got to make plays, too, and answer their goals. That's good lacrosse, back and forth like that."
Salazar, a first-year starter, proved in recent games that he can stop shots, though many against that stingy zone tend to be from the perimeter. He stood in tough during several wild flurries in the fourth quarter, just as former goalies Pete Badgley or Brian Feeney had done so many times themselves.
"I got to see some great role models in front of me," Salazar said. "They always helped me out with my game and everything. What I always saw in front of me was them working as hard as they could, even when they weren't starting. They kind of inspired me to work really hard and be ready to play whenever I got the opportunity."
Mike Kinney covers boys lacrosse for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeKinneyHS