UNION – With the game, the tournament and the season – post state championship contests – on the line, Oak Knoll standout sophomore Ali Baiocco was not finished.
Not by a long shot.
After in-town rival Summit tied Saturday’s girls’ lacrosse Tournament of Champions final with less than seven minutes to go in the second half, it was up to Oak Knoll to try to regain momentum and set up for the next goal.
The third-seeded Royals took their time, moving the ball around and near the Summit net for more than two minutes.
When it came time for Oak Knoll to fire its shot, it was Baiocco – again – coming through in the clutch for the Royals.
“We just kept running,” Baiocco said. “The play was for three people around the crease. I drove right at first, but nothing was open. Then I turned left and took my shot.”
That shot, which ended up being Baiocco’s team-high and tied for game-high sixth goal, proved to be the game-winner, sending Oak Knoll past fourth-seeded Summit 11-10 for its first-ever TOC crown.
The goal snapped a 10-10 tie – the game’s fifth deadlock since Oak Knoll led 4-2 in the first half – which was created when Summit star junior Sara Szynal’s team-high sixth goal reached the Oak Knoll net with 6:35 remaining.
Once Oak Knoll took the game’s final lead they overcame one turnover after a mad scramble and then ran out the game’s final minute.
On April 2 at Oak Knoll, the Royals downed the Hilltoppers 14-10.
Then in the Union County Tournament final at Johnson High School’s Nolan Field in Clark exactly four Saturdays ago, it was second-seeded Summit that bested top-seeded Oak Knoll 10-8 to capture its seventh straight county crown.
The rubber match Saturday went to Oak Knoll, which finished 23-2, on the final day of the 2015 lacrosse season. Summit concluded at 20-5.
“I would rather win states,” said Baiocco, who has two more years to go with Oak Knoll. “It was very exciting to be on the first Oak Knoll team to win the TOC and even more so because it was Summit who we played.
“We will miss all of our seniors, but we can now build off this and try to win it again.”
When it comes to girls’ lacrosse rivalries in New Jersey, there probably isn’t one that is as intense and gut-wrenching as Oak Knoll vs. Summit.
A Baiocco goal with 8:32 remaining in the first half gave Oak Knoll a 5-2 lead.
Summit stormed back with three goals to tie the game at 5-5, with Szynal scoring before and after Catherine Cordrey.
Then Diana Kelly scored for Oak Knoll to give the Royals back the lead at 6-5 with 1:08 to go before intermission.
Nicole Baiocco scored an all-important goal with just three seconds left in the first half to put Oak Knoll ahead 7-5.
At the onset of the second half, Cordrey pulled Summit to within 7-6 and then a goal by Callie Humphrey less than a minute later tied the game at 7-7.
Szynal’s fourth goal gave Summit an 8-7 lead before Allison Saya scored for Oak Knoll for an 8-8 score with 14:03 to go.
Szynal’s fifth goal gave Summit its final lead at 9-8 with 13:24 remaining.
Then a goal by Ali Baiocco tied the game at 9-9 with 12:12 left.
Baiocco’s fifth goal put Oak Knoll up 10-9 with 9:13 remaining.
Oak Knoll goaltender Jackie McCall was credited with seven saves, while Summit goalie Kady Glynn made 10.
Oak Knoll finished with a nine-game winning streak after falling to Summit in the UCT final.
Summit had a season-high nine-game winning streak of its own snapped.
North Jersey, Group 1 state champion Oak Knoll won the first half 7-5 and Summit the second 5-4.
North Jersey, Group 2 state champion Summit, which was also looking for its first TOC title, lost in the TOC final for the second straight season.
Summit lost to Moorestown 8-6 in last year’s TOC final at Bridgewater-Raritan. In 2013, the Hilltoppers lost to Shawnee 13-12 in overtime in a TOC semifinal at Monmouth University in West Long Branch.
GIRLS’ LACROSSE TOC FINAL AT KEAN UNIVERSITY
4-SUMMIT (20-5) 5 5 – 10
3-OAK KNOLL (23-2) 7 4 – 11
SUMMIT goalie: Kady Glynn, 10 saves.
OAK KNOLL goalie: Jackie McCall, 7 saves.
Sara Szynal 6 goals, 1 assist for 7 points.
Catherine Cordrey 2 goals for 2 points.
Callie Humphrey 2 goals for 2 points.
OAK KNOLL scoring:
Ali Baiocco 6 goals, 1 assist for 7 points.
Nicole Baiocco 2 goals, 1 assist for 3 points.
Allison Saya 2 goals for 2 points.
Diana Kelly 1 goal, 1 assist for 2 points.
Morgan Ryan 2 assists for 2 points.