SCOTCH PLAINS — Opposing a team enamored with talent and ranked No. 36th in the country, the Gov. Livingston girls’ soccer team played a flawless first half of soccer and pushed Scotch Plains-Fanwood to its limits.

Unfortunately for the Highlanders, things were a little different in the second 40 minutes. 

Allowing four goals in a 25-minute span in the second half after shutting out Scotch Plains-Fanwood for the first 43 minutes — a task challenging for any team in the state — the Highlanders were handed a 4-0 defeat in Scotch Plains Thursday afternoon.

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In a first half filled with high-energy and trap defense that coaxed the Raiders into numerous offsides penalties, the Highlanders matched Scotch Plains — play-for-play in the first 40 minutes and halted the team’s few scoring chances.

“By far, [the first half] was the best the team has looked all season — it wasn’t even close. That was the best 40-minute performance we’ve strung together,” said Gov. Livingston head coach Mike Roof. “They started to get mentally fatigued, and then the physical fatigue sets in around 50-to-60 minutes. Once they broke down — and it broke down quickly in the second half — that seems to be the case with a lot of teams, and that’s been the case with us also.”

The breakdown began in the sixth minute of the second half, when the Raiders’ Erika Muskus scored her first of two goals on the afternoon. The goal opened the floodgates for the Raiders, who received a goal from Danielle Mrozek four minutes later, then Muskus found the back of the net yet again before the onslaught ended with freshman Corinne Lyght connecting on the fourth and final goal of the game. 

“Once we let in, we kind of let our guard down, and you see the fatigue — mentally, physically — creep in,” said coach Roof. “After that, we were chasing the game, but it was extremely difficult for us to keep up with the pace of the game at that point.”

But Gov. Livingston more than proved it can run with a top-10 team in the state, and a team that has reigned over Union County for the entire decade-plus. For a young team like the Highlanders, Thursday’s result is just another step in the right direction and might symbolize good things to come against the more down-to-earth opponents coming up.

“I tried to tell the girls: ‘We’re not huge into moral victories.’,” Roof said. “But you’ve got to take some positives out of a bad situation. It should be proof that you can do this. You don’t just have to play 40 minutes as hard as you can versus Scotch Plains — you can do this for 80 minutes against some of the more reasonable teams that we play. It’s encouraging moving forward.”

Highlanders’ goalie Michelle Coyle was a major reason for the phenomenal first-half, as she recorded a total of seven saves and denied any Raider shot-on-goal in the opening 40 minutes. She left the game with injury later in the second half, and Sarah Foy entered the game, stopping two more shots. 

With a break in the schedule, the Lady Highlanders will look to build off the positive momentum started Thursday, the Highlanders will play host to another county power — Oak Knoll — on Saturday, Sept. 23 at 11:30 a.m.