No. 2 Summit tops No. 3 Delbarton
A quick two-goal deficit against Delbarton is a situation that no team in New Jersey would ever consider ideal.
But, it was the reality that Summit accepted and a challenge that it almost seemed to enjoy.
Of course, when you come equipped with a zone defense whose consistency and ferocity are almost unparalleled and an offensive sparkplug as experienced and imaginative as Nick Kilkowski, the panic button tends to grow rusty through misuse regardless of the score or opponent.
Kilkowski netted two goals in a momentum-changing second quarter and the senior attackman finished with five to guide the undefeated Hilltoppers, No. 2 in the MSG Varsity New Jersey Power Rankings, to a 9-4 win over No. 3 Delbarton Wednesday afternoon at Regan Field in Morris Township.
Summit improved to 13-0 and claimed its fifth straight victory over the Green Wave. Delbarton (8-4) had a seven-game winning streak snapped by its coolly composed opponent.
"We've been here before. We were down to Ridgefield (Conn.), 4-0, Chatham, 2-0," Kilkowski said of recent comeback wins. "We just said we had to fight back. No one complained, no one pointed a finger, everyone just went back out there and tried to make a play."
In Kilkowski's case, he appeared bent on making each play a little more spectacular than the one he'd just executed. He cut Delbarton's lead to 2-1 with a tough dodge to the goalmouth 3:04 into the second quarter and opened a 3-2 advantage with 1:56 to go by splitting two defenders and connecting with an overhead stuff that just beat Delbarton goalie John Schisler.
Pure highlight material.
"I hate to say this, but I hate practicing against him because he's such a great finisher," said Summit goalie Alex Salazar, whose eight saves didn't exactly provide a ray of sunshine for Delbarton shooters. His stops supported the strong defensive play of Will Weber, Stef Stadlinger, Bill Hadley, Tyler Carbone and shortstick middies Mike Badgley and Tom Celmer.
"He really works his butt off out there," Salazar said of Kilkowski. "He gets to the cage and he finishes it, and that's exactly what we need sometime. He's got an intensity that I always feel the rest of our team has to match."
The Hilltoppers matched Kilkowski's fire Wednesday with exceptional footwork and tenacious stick-checking to frustrate a group of Delbarton scorers who have barely been inconvenienced over the last three weeks.
The Green Wave had outscored its previous seven victims by an average score of 14-6. And it looked like they were headed for more of that after senior Connor Bilby stuck two goals in the first 4:43 of play to open a 2-0 advantage. A tough spot to be in with Delbarton junior Austin Williams handling the faceoffs for the home team.
He was typically spectacular, winning all three draws in the first quarter and claiming 15 of 17 for the game. Williams' dominance made Summit's ability to regain possession and control tempo all the more impressive.
"We knew he was an unbelievable faceoff guy and knew we had to contain him the best we could," Kilkowski said. "He's a real force we had to deal with in pregame preparations."
Summit clearly had the scouting report correct on Delbarton's ability to sneak inside seams and score from various spots low in the box. After Bilby's second goal, Delbarton was held scoreless for more than 41 minutes.
"We came out a little flat," Weber said, "but after we recognized what their offense was doing, I just told our guys to keep communicating, talk if cutters come down the lane. We did a great job and if shots got through, Sal was always there to make the saves."
A good number of those attempts that did reach Salazar were from relatively deep in the box. They seemed like opportunities at the time, but were all part of Summit's plan.
"I told the guys stay strong on the ball up top because they have a lot of good shooters," Weber said. "Let them take the 15-yard shot and Sal's always going to make the save. Make sure they don't gash down our zone because they're going to have a free shot five yards out."
Weber helped set up Summit's fourth goal with a check and ground ball in his defending box and Kilkowski converted it with a powerful dodge and running bouncer from nine yards out with 4:31left in the third quarter. Austin Carbone sank his first of two goals with 25 seconds to go for a 5-2 lead.
"We kind of have a bad habit of falling down early in games," Salazar said. "But I knew we would be able to come back because we have the ability to play hard and pick up ground balls, get the ball and score.
"We really put a lot of pressure on their ballhandlers," he said. "We forced them to have turnovers, which was great. We made them turn the ball over, and once they put it on the ground, we were able to get it out. That's exactly how we practice it."
Summit caused six turnovers in that decisive second quarter and created nine for the half. That limited Delbarton to eight shots and accorded more possession time for the crafty Kilkowski.
"We didn't let emotion get the best of us when we fell behind," Weber said. "We told our team just do what we do best: let's get ground balls and get our offense the ball back. Possess it, get goals and just continue to play strong defense. That's what we did."
Mike Kinney covers boys lacrosse for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeKinneyHS