CLARK – Sometimes a team doesn’t manage to take its first lead until very late.
The Summit field hockey team took that to a new level Saturday afternoon.
The Hilltoppers managed to score the winning goal – for their only lead of the game – with exactly no time remaining in the second half.
Kendall Codey’s second second-half goal – this one off a corner – lifted third-seeded Summit past second-seeded Johnson 2-1 in Saturday’s first of two Union County Tournament semifinals contested at Johnson’s Nolan Field.
“It’s amazing,” said Codey – a sophomore who wears No. 24 – moments after the hard-fought clash. “This was really a tough game and it was really close the whole way.”
As a result, Summit will take on top-seeded and undefeated in-town rival Oak Knoll in Sunday’s (Oct. 28) 5 p.m. championship game at Kean University’s Alumni Stadium in Union. Oak Knoll, which is ranked No. 2 in the state, improved to 17-0 after ousting fourth-seeded Cranford 3-0 in Saturday’s second semifinal at Nolan Field.
Two-time defending champion Oak Knoll will be seeking a third straight UCT title. The Royals have captured the most UCT crowns.
Summit prevented a ninth straight Oak Knoll-Johnson final. Oak Knoll and Johnson faced off against each other in the last eight UCT title games from 2004-2011. Johnson, which last did not reach the final in 2003 after falling to Oak Knoll in the semifinals, reached the final for the first time in 2004 and won the UCT for the only time in 2009.
Summit (9-5-2) and Johnson (9-6-1) battled to a 1-1 tie in regular season play back on Oct. 11 at Johnson. The Crusaders also scored first in that game, with both goals coming in the first half.
On Saturday, Johnson took its 1-0 lead when senior Lauren Adamusik scored off an assist from junior Maura Moran with 10 seconds left in the first half. That goal also came off a corner.
Once play continued in the second half it took Summit less than two minutes to tie the game at 1-1. Codey scored her and the team’s first goal off an assist from senior Annie Schmidt.
“Once we tied the game we started playing Summit hockey,” Codey said.
Johnson had a 5-2 edge in shots after the first half.
“At halftime we talked about putting the ball in the net,” Summit head coach Jen Schwarzenbek said. “In the first two minutes we had a chance and capitalized.”
Summit – in an effort to regroup – took its first of two timeouts with less than two minutes to go.
The move paid off quickly.
The Hilltoppers were awarded a corner with exactly no time left. If Summit’s shot had sailed wide, then the teams would have gone on to continue playing in overtime.
Instead, senior Nikki Sharkin’s shot was saved by Johnson senior goaltender Camelia Mooney, with Mooney stopping the ball between her leg pads.
That enabled Summit to have another corner.
“On the next one, Nikki passed to (senior) Abby (Beier) whose shot was saved by their goalie,” said Schwarzenbek, beginning to explain the second corner. “Then Kendall got the rebound and put it in.
“Kendall is a strong player who has strong vision and sees the field well.”
“That one was not supposed to be my corner,” Codey said. “We were getting corners with our passing and pushing as a team.”
Summit faced Oak Knoll once in the regular season, falling 6-0 in Chatham on Oct. 4. The host Royals scored three times in each half, with senior Alexa Iammatteo netting a hat-trick and junior Ryan McCarthy adding two goals and one assist.
Summit senior goalie Angelica Angelo was busy in net for the Hilltoppers, making 22 saves.
“We’re glad to be in the championship game,” Codey said. “We know Oak Knoll’s style and their history. We need to watch out for their passing.”
Iammatteo also scored twice and senior Kyla Cordrey once in Saturday’s UCT win over Cranford. Oak Knoll also shut out Cranford 5-0 at home on Sept. 24 and Johnson 8-0 at home on Sept. 27 in regular season play.
“We had a lot of injuries going into our first game against Oak Knoll,” Schwarzenbek said. “We’re a new team that has come together and we’re really excited to be playing for the title.
“Oak Knoll is strong and competitive, so we need to play our game and hold our position.”
NOTES: In the regular season Summit-Johnson game, junior Michelle Pozyc scored for Johnson and then sophomore Megan Ophel for Summit.
Saturday, Oct. 20
At Johnson’s Nolan Field
Summit 2, Johnson 1
Oak Knoll 3, Cranford 0
Sunday, Oct. 28
At Kean University’s Alumni Stadium, Union
3-Summit vs. 1-Oak Knoll, 5 p.m.
UCT FIELD HOCKEY TITLE GAME SCORES SINCE 2004:
2011: Oak Knoll 5, Johnson 1 – at Johnson
2010: Oak Knoll 3, Johnson 1 – at Kean University
2009: Johnson 3, Oak Knoll 2 – at Cranford
2008: Oak Knoll 2, Johnson 1 – at Johnson
2007: Oak Knoll 2, Johnson 1 (OT) – at Johnson
2006: Oak Knoll 4, Johnson 0 – at Westfield
2005: Oak Knoll 2, Johnson 0 – at Kean University
2004: Oak Knoll 5, Johnson 2 – at Chatham
Oak Knoll defeated Johnson in the 2003 semifinals.