BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ- The Governor Livingston High School Highlanders boys varsity soccer team took to the field, looking to start their journey towards competing for a sectional title, but the fourth-seeded Highlanders were completely outplayed as the first half went along.
They fell behind early and couldn’t get back on track, losing to the 13-seeded Matawan High School Huskies in the NJSIAA Central, Group 2 First Round by a final score of 4-2 Tuesday afternoon in Berkeley Heights.
As the first half started, the Huskies and Highlanders traded shots and corner kicks, but nothing was reaching the back of the net until the Huskies turned up the pressure in the second portion of the first half.
Matawan got to the Governor Livingston and kept the ball in the Highlanders zone and eventually, it turned into a goal, reaching the top side of the net, as the Huskies took the 1-0 lead at the 17:34-mark of the first half.
The Huskies pressured the Highlanders even more and they would strike again with a goal, taking a 2-0 lead at the 25:10-mark of the first half, as Governor Livingston struggled to get good ball control in the duration of time in the half.
The Highlanders had e a few close scoring chances as the half went along, but nothing was reaching the back of the net and they trailed the Huskies 2-0 at halftime, getting outplayed in every element of the game.
“In the first half, I thought we were very passive,” Governor Livingston head coach Bruno Somma said. “We let [Matawan] get the ball, we gave them a lot of space and time and they capitalized on it.”
Governor Livingston continued pushing in the opening minutes of the second half, but couldn’t get back in the game. Matawan took a 3-0 lead at the 11:52-mark of the second half.
Governor Livingston senior Mason Boenning cut the Huskies’ lead down to 3-1 with a goal at the 16:16-mark of the second half, creating some momentum for his team. As the half went along, the Highlanders continued pressing in an effort for a comeback.
“In the second half, I thought we did much better with pressure on the ball and creating opportunities because we were closing down on them,” Somma added. “Give credit to Matawan, they came out and took advantage of the time and space that we gave them.”
Matawan sealed the deal with a goal at the 36:30-mark of the second half that made it a 4-1 lead. Governor Livingston senior Connor King tallied a goal at the 37:57-mark of the second half, but the time ran out, as the Highlanders’ run in the state tournament came to a quick end.
Griffin Hayward scored two goals for Matawan, while Giovani Barsoum and Matt Weisburg scored one goal apiece for the Huskies on the afternoon.
Senior Josiah Crawford, one of the team’s captains, reflected on what he learned the most as a part of Governor Livingston boys soccer team. He will be continuing his soccer career at St. John’s College in Brooklyn, New York.
“[I’ve learned] how to become a leader,” Crawford said. “These guys look up to me, so I want to do my best and give them someone to look up to. I had fun with these guys. Learning how to be a leader is the one thing I’ve learned in high school.”
Despite the loss, Somma expressed hopes as the current juniors will take over the team leadership from a senior class that included Crawford, Boenning and King.
“I hope they follow some of the [current seniors] progress and develop as players and put in the hard work that is required to be successful,” Somma said of the underclassmen players on the team.
The Governor Livingston Highlanders (7-8-1) will face off against Summit HS in their season finale on Wednesday, November 8 at 3:30 p.m.
The Matawan Huskies (7-8-2) advance to the NJSIAA Central, Group 2 Quarterfinals and will travel to play at 12-seeded Bernards HS on Friday, November 3, with the start time TBD.