LIVINGSTON, NJ — All things considered, a season whose status was in doubt up until opening day, and one that then was interrupted for two weeks late in the season, turned out to have plenty of high points for the Livingston High School boys soccer team.
Prior to ending their season with a 3-0 loss to Montclair in the North East G, Group 4 sectional final on Sunday, the Lancers had won seven shutout victories in a row before getting past West Orange in a thrilling shootout in the sectional semifinal.
Livingston would strike first against the Mountaineers on a long throw-in from Grant Shevrin, which found Jared Fiske on the back post and the junior midfielder knocked in his sixth goal of the year to make it 1-0. With about 15 minutes remaining in the first half, the Lancers were called for a hand ball in the box, and West Orange converted the kick to knot the game at 1-1. The score ended that way in regulation and through two overtime periods.
Charlie Grossman, Kyle Loventhal and Zach Feldman of Livingston all were successful, as were the first three Mountaineers shooters in the penalty kick (PK) rounds. Up next came goalkeeper Ben Pawlak, who netted the fourth score for the Lancers. On the back end, Pawlak made a huge save to give Livingston a 4-3 lead in kicks.
Shevrin came up as the fifth and potential last shooter if he could convert the kick. The whistle blew, and Shevrin calmly came up and slid the ball into the net as the Mountaineer goalie guessed to the wrong side, sending the Lancers into the finals against Montclair.
After not play for 15 days due to COVID-19 protocols, Livingston resumed action on Nov. 17 and finished its 2020 season with a stunning 9-2-2 record.
"It was a fantastic season for Livingston," said Livingston head coach Roger Rubinetti. "[We started] training in early July, when about 60-plus players came and worked out under the NJSIAA's Phase 1 and Phase 2 mandates, followed by a two-week only-virtual period as the students started to adjust to going back to school. On Sept. 14, tryouts began, followed by one scrimmage vs. Columbia that ended in a 1-1 tie, and then the start of the season on Oct. 2."
Livingston defeated Nutley, 2-0, in the opener, then won a 1-0 rivalry showdown over West Essex. Livingston had won the previous four decisions between the two teams to keep the trophy in Livingston, as sophomore Feldman scored with just under six minutes remaining in regulation. In the five years since the inception of the matchup, Livingston has yet to yield a goal to the Knights.
The Lancers tied Montclair, 1-1, in the regular season, which would be the only blemish for Montclair this season, as the Mounties finished 14-0-1 on the year. Livingston senior Holden Miller tied the game with about six minutes to go when he headed in a served ball by goalkeeper Pawlak.
For the remainder of the regular season, the Lancers did not surrender another goal. In fact, the Lancers had given up the least amount of goals in the state leading up to the playoffs, with just two getting by Pawlak and his defenders, Zach Lang and Loventhal, along with junior Noah Fisher and Krish Maholtra.
Feldman also helped to anchor the back; but with the emergence of Malholtra Feldman, he was then used in the midfield and up top along with senior Shevrin.
"Shevrin was another converted back who likes to attack," said Rubinetti. "When the opportunities would come, Shevrin slid up top to help the attack."
Junior outside midfielder Jared Fiske led the Lancers with six goals, while seniors Miller and Kyle Kelly held down the middle of the field. Miller had two goals and six assists.
Grossman found his way into the starting lineup as a sophomore, rotating between forward and the midfield.
Lucas Lang, another senior, was the team's starting left midfielder, while junior Lucas Chisarick would often come in and relieve Lang and Fiske on the outside.
Senior Rohan Metha would take his turns up front with junior Lav Saigal.
Junior Jake Fitzgerald would come in and help solidify the defense, while junior goalkeeper Logan Peredes would relieve Pawlak. Paredes did not yield a goal while in nets for the Lancers.
Juniors Colin Miller and Matthew Hoffman, along with sophomores Neal Hejib and Andrew Pessoa, were called up at the end of their JV season, and freshman goalkeeper Jacob Hans also was called up.
"Adam Margolis did a fantastic job helping to train the goalkeepers during practice sessions while also getting in some work of his own," said Rubinetti.
When Livingston came out of its quarantine in mid-November, the team picked up right where it left off, recording its seventh shutout in a row with a 2-0 victory over Union City.
After getting past West Orange, Livingston ran into an undefeated Montclair team at its best.
"Although the sectional final was not the outcome we were all hoping for, the season was a great success," said Rubinetti. "The team battled hard in every game and won so many tightly contested one-goal games."
For the seniors and their teammates, Rubinetti said that it was "a special season in a special year."
"The future looks bright for the program as both lower level teams were very successful this past season, and the team will be setting its goals on a return next season," said Rubinetti. "I could not be any prouder of the way these kids battled through all the adversity this year, and how they played together from Day One as a team till the final whistle. They made their families proud, the high school and town proud, and most of all our coaching staff proud."
The Livingston High School girls soccer team also had an outstanding season in 2020 despite facing many challenges. CLICK HERE to read more about the girls soccer team. Livingston's other fall 2020 athletic programs will also be highlighted on TAPinto Livingston in the coming days.
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