BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Nearly one year after capturing the Central Jersey Group 2 championship crown and advancing all the way to the Group 2 semifinals, the Governor Livingston Highlanders boys’ soccer team took the field for the first time of the 2015 season on Tuesday at home.
The team suffered a tough 2-1 loss to the rival Westfield Blue Devils. With the loss, the Highlanders fell to 1-0 while the Blue Devils improved to 1-1. Josiah Crawford scored Governor Livingston’s only goal of the game off a play by senior Mike Coimbra.
With the game tied 1-1, Westfield’s Owen Riggerger scored the game’s go-ahead goal in the 74th minute. Loukas Carayannopoulos scored Westfield’s other goal.
For a relatively young team with a lot of new faces playing in its first game, the Highlanders performed quite well against a solid opponent.
“We did a good job controlling the first half,” Coimbra, one of the team’s captains, said. “I thought we played very well considering it was the first game of the season.”
Like Coimbra said, the Highlanders did come out strong in the game’s early goings. They controlled the game’s tempo through their speed and footwork.
The Highlanders defense caused a lot of problems for Westfield and showed their preparation for the Blue Devils’ style of play. The Highlanders held the Blue Devils to just one first half goal.
“Even though we have a lot of new players on defense, our defense did an overall good job of shutting them down for the most part,” junior Kian Monaghan said. “We fought to the very end.”
Senior Jake Topor certainly made his impact on the game defensively. Topor had several amazing saves including a sliding save late in the game that kept the Highlnaders in the game.
Topor also received a questionable yellow card in the first half that resulted in a free kick by Westfield.
“The yellow card was just a simple misunderstanding,” Topor said. “I talked to the ref and we were able to sort the whole thing out.”
For Topor not to react to the yellow card in a negative way is the type of leadership this young team will need. And for Topor to not let the call affect his play undoubtedly motivated his team to keep fighting.
As for the Highlanders’ fight, they showed it both mentally and physically. Tuesday’sgame was very physical as players from both teams refused to back down from one another.
The physical style of play is expected on this level of competition.
“Coach Somma said we did a good job battling out there today and being physical,” Coimbra said. “We’re not that big of a team but we didn’t back down today. We did well for our size.”
The Highlanders had a chance to tie the game after Riggerger’s go-ahead goal. Monaghan used his speed to penetrate Westfield’s defense but was unable to find an open teammate and lost the ball.
Monaghan had one last attempt to tie the game but his shot just missed the goal.
Tuesday’s loss was as tough as they come but the Highlanders refused to hang their heads and players like Topor still have high hopes for the season.
“We’re a new team and we’re still getting used to each other,” Topor said. “We still have a lot more games to play and continue to improve.”