Girls Soccer: Highlanders Riding High Heading Into Showdown At Westfield

Credits: D. Bachert
Credits: D. Bachert
Credits: D. Bachert
Credits: D. Bachert
Credits: D. Bachert
Credits: D. Bachert
Credits: D. Bachert
Credits: D. Bachert
Credits: D. Bachert

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Governor Livingston Highlanders girls soccer team is riding high on momentum as the team gets set to face top-seeded Westfield in the second round of the Union County Tournament on Saturday. The Highlanders are currently on a four-game winning streak and has outscored its opponents, 13-1 during that span.

Head coach Mike Roof credits the win streak to the team settling into its identity after attempting to find one during the season’s tough early stretch.

“It’s been a team-wide effort as everyone has been producing, including our support players,” Roof, whose team enters Saturday with a 6-5-1 record, said. “We’ve developed a better sense of identity as we’ve finally settled on a formation that works.”

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The formation Roof is referencing is the team’s 3-4-3 set that Roof said has given the team some balance. The set includes three defenders that play flat in the back end which allows the Highlanders to trap teams. The rest of the formation includes the four midfielders and three strikers up top.

Roof credits the formation for helping get the team out of danger on defense and for helping his squad create more chances offensively.

“We’ve created a great deal of chances this past week and we’ve also been finishing more offensively,” Roof said. “But the bigger impact has been in the backend where the mistakes have been minimized which was not as present early on in the season.”

Several Highlanders have stepped up during the winning streak by taking their games to another level, including senior goalkeeper Michelle Coyle, who Roof said has done a good job in different situations and has provided big saves when needed.

In addition to Coyle, Roof said the back three senior trio of Ava Delargy, Stacey Berliner, and Anna Pasquale, has provided consistency. The Highlanders have also received strong play from senior midfielders, Caroline Peer, Ashley Echeverry, Maggie Zecca, and freshman Kelsey DiStaso.

DiStaso is a piece of Roof’s solid freshmen class that also includes Kaylee Vreeland and Samantha Erickson.

The Highlanders began their winning streak with a 1-0 victory over Cranford.  The freshman Erickson scored the team’s lone goal while Coyle recorded four saves.

“The Cranford matchup was tough physically for us,” Roof said. “We struggled in the first half but as we grew into the game, we dealt with the physicality and got better. Our defense didn’t give too many opportunities, which was the difference in the game.”

The Highlanders extended the winning streak to two with a 3-1 victory over New Providence in the opening round of the Union County Tournament. Zacca and Erickson both scored goals in the contest.

“The girls were really motivated to win that game against New Prov considering we laid a stinker the week prior at their place,” Roof said. “This time around, the girls put a good effort it and it was actually one of our better efforts of the season. We controlled the tempo of the game, and it showed in the result.”

The streak was pushed to three when the Highlanders shutout Union Catholic, 4-0. Echeverry, Peer, Vreeland, and junior Emily Pires all scored goals while Coyle chipped in with two assists and had a pair of saves.

“Union Catholic is not what they’ve been in the past but we still wanted to take it to them,” Roof said. “We scored a few early goals and the girls did a good job of not allowing them too many opportunities defensively.”

On Thursday, the Highlanders extended the streak to four games with a second consecutive shutout as the team defeated Rahway, 5-0. Echeverry and junior Catalina Abusado scored two goals apiece while sophomore Caitlin Colendenski chipped in with a goal of her own.

“We struggled to break Rahway down in the first half and were pressing a bit,” Roof said. “But we did a good job finishing them in the second half.”

The Highlanders will look to extend the streak to five on Saturday when they’ll face top-seeded Westfield. The task won’t be easy but at least the team has the momentum that will give them a chance.

“Going up against the top seed will be a difficult task,” Roof said. “But I trust that the girls will be locked in individually and as a team.”

Saturday’s game will take place at Westfield and is slated to begin at 3 p.m.

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