RAHWAY, NJ - The Gov. Livingston boys soccer team had its 2019 season come to an end in a 2-0 loss to fourth-seeded Rahway in the semifinal round of the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 2 tournament on Tuesday afternoon at Rahway River Park in Rahway.
The Highlanders, seeded eighth, finished with a solid 12-7-4 record this fall. Rahway (15-4-2), which had bowed to Gov. Livingston, 1-0, in a regular-season game on Sept. 26, advanced to the sectional finals against second-seeded Delaware Valley on Friday, Nov. 8.
The Highlanders were seeking its first sectional final since 2011 when it dropped a 2-1 decision to Holmdel in the Central Jersey, Group 2 championship game.
"They were much better in their formation this time around," said Gov. Livingston assistant coach Kevin Fontana. "They played a different style that was more effective against us."
Rahway received goals in the 25th and 35th minutes of the first half and goalie Ryan Beenders anchored the defense with a five-save effort. Rahway now has 14 shutouts this fall and has surrendered on 12 goals all season.
"After the game (head coach Bruno) Somma and I just expressed to the team how appreciative we were of their effort and how much fight they showed every time they played," said Fontana.
One of those examples occurred on Friday, Nov. 1 when the Highlanders eliminated two-time and defending overall Group 2 champion Holmdel in the sectional quarterfinal round in penalty kicks.
Holmdel, which was New Jersey's top-ranked team a year ago, entered the game with a 16-0-1 mark and had been 60-1-3 in its previous 64 games dating back to the beginning of the 2017 season.
Jeremy Malave had the lone goal for Gov. Livingston in regulation and then, along with Rafe Barnum and Christian Montes, converted penalty kicks as Gov. Livingston won the shootout, 3-2. Connor Bigelow was outstanding in goal with 14 saves.
"It was such a huge win for us and a proud moment for our program," said Fontana. "But it takes a lot out of the players to go through regulation, two overtime periods and then PKs against a team of that caliber. That may have played a role against Rahway, but that's not an excuse."
Gov. Livingston had advanced in the Union County Tournament by outlasting Cranford in penalty kicks in the second round before falling to Westfield also in PKs in the quarterfinal round.
The Highlanders were led this season offensively by juniors Ethan Proper (20 goals, 11 assists) and Fabrizio Marisi (two goals), seniors Thomas Candeloro (three, three) and Ben Grimes (two goals) and sophomores Montes (four, three), Alex Pitt (three, two), Kevin Rodrigues (three goals) and Jamiel Saenz (three, one).
"It was a very productive season for this team," said Fontana. "And myself and coach Bruno couldn't be prouder of what they accomplished."