It isn’t often that a team gets the chance to learn a lesson during the state tournament, where one mistake or letdown can determine the outcome of a game and send a team home at any moment.
So when top-seeded Parsippany held off a late rally from eighth-seeded Summit and held on for a 5-4 victory in the North 1 Group II quarterfinals, Red Hawks head coach Rebecca Lilienthal used the chance to explain that to her team.
“It was a bit more stressful than I would have liked,” she said. “It is growth. Pressure games, pressure situations are something that is learned and we are getting there.”
Early on it looked like the Red Hawks (19-1) would cruise into the semifinals when they jumped out of the gates on fire in the first 17 minutes of play. Junior Emily Davis started the scoring for Parsippany when she took a pass from fellow junior Katie Lipps that seemed to weave its way through traffic, and found the back of the cage just over one minute into the game to put her team up 1-0.
About five minutes later Red Hawks star senior Krysten Mayers added her first of two goals on the day when she executed a picture perfect give-and-go with Davis on a penalty corner and found the back of the cage with a hard shot from a few yards out.
After sophomore Juliana DeIntinis and Mayers both added goals within a three minute span, the Red Hawks were up 4-0 and feeling good; maybe even too good according to junior Victoria Rossi.
“I think when we went up 4-0 some girls thought, ‘Oh we have a big lead,’ and they started holding back,” she said.
The last six minutes of the first half proved her right as Summit (12-5-2) battled back, scoring twice in the final five minutes of the half to send the game to halftime 4-2.
After an intense halftime the Red Hawks came out for the second half and again started quickly, with Rossi scoring on a deflection just 10 minutes in for what would become the game-winning goal.
“At the time I wasn’t even thinking it could be the game-winner,” she said. “I was just thinking we need another one and I want another one for my team.”
The goal seemed to shift momentum back to the Red Hawks for a few minutes as they started to regain control of the midfield, leading to a few more scoring chances. But Summit never gave in, fighting back to draw within 5-3 after a Parsippany defender slipped and fell in the circle around the 13:30 mark of the second half.
The goal was the first of two in a row that were bad breaks for Parsippany as the Hilltoppers also added a goal on a penalty stroke with under 10 minutes remaining in the game to pull within 5-4.
After the two unlucky breaks, Lilienthal kept the message to her defense simple.
“You just have to let it go and keep playing and make it up on the next play,” she said.
The Red Hawks’ defense responded, rising to the occasion to fight off three Summit corners in the final three minutes of the game to hold on for the victory.
Parsippany now moves on to face fourth-seeded Voorhees in the semifinals where it will look to take the lesson they learned on Friday to heart.
“We have to leave it all on the field or else it is going to be too close of a game,” Rossi said. “If we lay it all out on the field for each other that is all we can do.”
“We have to play each game like it is our last,” Mayers added. “Because it could be.”