BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ- After a fierce stalemate between the two rivals, star Pioneer forward Cristiano Hocken was finally able to shatter the Highlander defense and score a clutch goal in the 70th minute of the match. Although the Highlander squad was able to string together a series of impressive attacks, No. 5 seed Gov. Livingston's inability to finish resulted in their county run coming to an abrupt end. Fortunately for New Providence [No. 13 seed], this sweet triumph allowed the Pioneers to clinch their sixth consecutive win and advance to play fourth seed Cranford in the quarterfinal round of the Union County Tournament Friday, Oct. 14 in Cranford with a 6:30 p.m. start.
With the Highlanders coming off a close 1-0 loss to the undefeated Raiders of Scotch Plains-Fanwood and the Pioneers pursuit to keeping their winning streak alive, both rival teams felt they had something to prove and knew that they needed to play well in order to secure a much needed victory. In the first half, both Gov. Livingston's and New Providence's goalkeepers tight defensive play stunted both teams' imposing offensive attempts.
Senior Cristiano Hocken's attempted free kicks were perfectly defended by Highlander goalie Andre Perez-Santalla. On the other end of the field, Gov. Livingston's quick offensive attacks were also halted by New Providence's skilled junior keeper, Dillon Konzelmann. Throughout the first half, Gov. Livingston forwards Mason Boenning and Kian Monaghan were able to create a series of impressive breakaways followed by shots on goal, only to be denied by the Pioneer goalkeeper. The excellent goalkeeping on both sides forced both teams to return to the sidelines scoreless.
This constant tug-of-war between the Highlanders and Pioneers continued throughout most of the second half. It was not until the 70th minute mark that New Providence was able to break the deadlock and generate the offensive spark needed to strike first. After receiving a pass from teammate Brendan Regan, Hocken fired a shot past goalkeeper Perez-Santalla to record the very first goal of the game, allowing the Pioneers to take a 1-0 lead.
Feeling the pressure, Gov. Livingston came alive and managed to piece together a sequence of aggressive offensive attacks lead by Boenning and freshman Justin Ladzinski. However, the attempts fell short and failed to produce the goals they needed to secure a win. In the end, the Pioneers managed to stave off the Highlanders and walk off the field with a 1-0 win.
Jon Panella, Pioneer head coach, commended his team's win in the hard-fought match. "It was two good teams battling today and the game could have gone either way," said Panella. "I'm proud of my boys for the win today."
Konzelmann also commented on how the team was able to stay focused in such an intense game. "We kept our composure and continued to play our game," said Konzelmann. "We all battled for each other on the field and in the end our hard work paid off."
Despite the disappointing defeat and being knocked out of the county tournament, Highlander head coach Bruno Somma is optimistic and looking forward to wiping the slate clean heading into the state championship. "Once we get to states you can throw out those records," stated Somma. "It's a whole new season."
Coming off of a 3-2 overtime victory against Rahway on Monday, GL will be looking for redemption Thursday afternoon in a regular season rematch against New Providence at Lieder Field.
Editor's Note: Olivia Machado is a junior at Gov. Livingston High School participating in the TAPinto student intern program. To learn more about the program, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.