BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Thanks in large part to the heroic goal tending effort of senior Connor Bigelow, Gov. Livingston boys soccer team defeated the reining back-to-back state champion Holmdel team in a penalty kick shootout to advance to the State Sectional Tournament semifinal round.
At the end of regulation time, it was 1-1, sending the game into a golden-goal overtime. While both teams had their chances, the game was decided in a penalty kick shoot-out.
Head Coach Bruno Somma felt good about their shoot-out odds. "When it comes to overtime game, I tell them that we are better conditioned and that we have been here before," said Somma. "We are extremely confident as we have players that can make PK’s," he said.
GL was 1-1 in shoot-out decisions this season, losing to Westfield in the County Tournament heartbreaker.
For the Holmdel shoot-out, both teams missed their first kick. Jeremy Malave, Rafe Barnum and Christian Montes all converted their spot-kicks.
Bigelow didn't seem to crack under the pressure of this big moment in his high school soccer career. "When I know the game is on the line, I need to do my job so everyone else can too," said Bigelow. "In most cases a big save leads to a counter attack and more chances to score as a team."
In this critical moment, Bigelow came up with a massive save to give his team the advantage -- and then Holmdel hit the post -- giving GL the upset win.
For the game winning save to give the Highlanders the huge upset win over No. 5 state ranked Holmdel, Connor Bigelow is named Valairco Heating and Cooling Highlander Athlete of the Week.
Connor took time out to answer a few questions in recognition of being named Athlete of the Week.
TAPinto: There was a lot of pressure on you -- do you have a different technique in handling such pressure?
Connor: As a goalkeeper I know that I am not going to be able to save every penalty kick, but if I do save one it can win us the game. I just imagine myself making that one save and try to replicate that on the field.
TAPinto: As a goalie, you need to be a leader on the field, how do you communicate with your team to keep them motivated?
Connor: I try my best to be loud from the back of the field, but in some cases I cannot communicate with the whole team on the field. I constantly talk with my back line and they relay messages to the other side of the field. I always let them know when they make a good play and encourage them work hard until the end and “empty their buckets” as Coach Somma says.
TAPinto: Did you meet your personal and team goals this season?
Connor: Yes I did. Personally, I wanted to be an effective leader and establish my presence on the field which I believe I was able to do. As a team, we wanted to prove ourselves as respected competitors for our conference and section. We achieved this by turning some heads after winning some big games against tough competition.
TAPinto: Do you have a pre-game ritual?
Connor: Before each game I slap on the crossbar three times to make sure I’m alert and ready to go.
TAPinto: Do you have a sports hero?
Connor: Ever since I became a goalkeeper I have looked up to the American goalkeeper Tim Howard. His ability to lead and his performance in important games always impressed me and motivated me to play just like him.
TAPinto: Who is your role model?
Connor: My role model is my mom because of all she has done for me. Cooking meals, getting me to practices on time, cheering for me at all my games, and motivating me to do my best in school. She was able to do all of this while working a full time job and to this day I don’t know how she’s done it. I hope to be able to be just as impactful as her some day.
TAPinto: What is the best advice you've ever gotten and from who?
Connor: The best advice I’ve gotten during my soccer career was from my grandfather. Once I became a goalkeeper, he would tell me that if a goal was scored then the the other team got by 10 people ahead of you as well. He did not mean to throw my teammates under the bus for goals allowed, but for me not to be so hard on myself after goals and to keep my focus for the rest of the game.
TAPinto: When not at GL, what do you like to do in your spare time?
Connor: When not at GL I usually find myself hanging out with my friends or watching sports on tv.
TAPinto: What is your favorite subject and who is your favorite teacher?
Connor: The class that I’ve enjoyed most at GL is AP Statistics with Mr. Hess. He’s extremely personable and makes the class very enjoyable. Since I’m planning to be a business major it’s been a great course to take.
TAPinto: What will you miss about GL?
Connor: I will miss the bonds I’ve created with my teammates for both soccer and basketball. Being able to compete alongside some of my closest friends since childhood has been an unforgettable experience that I will always cherish.
TAPinto: What are your plans for next year and do they include soccer?
Connor: I plan to go to college to study business in the future. It’s hard to see a situation where I don’t play soccer anymore, so I am looking to compete at either the intramural or club level in college.
Valairco Heating & Cooling is the proud sponsor of the Highlander Athlete of the Week. Kevin McHugh, Valairco Owner and President and Berkeley Heights resident, is an alumni of Gov. Livingston High School.
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