Sports

Soccer Standouts Perez-Santalla and Crawford Named Delicious Heights Highlander Athletes of the Week

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BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Senior forward Josiah Crawford knotted and then shot a penalty kick that gave Gov. Livingston boys soccer team an improbable, but gritty 2-1 win over Summit at their season opener last week. However, the team never would have been in the match, let alone be in the position to snatch a victory, without the acrobatics of junior goalkeeper Andre Perez-Santalla.

Perez-Santalla and Crawford are named Delicious Heights Highlander Athletes of the Week for their roles in last week's season opening win.

Perez-Santalla, although beaten once in the first half, made a series of stops -- a couple bordering on spectacular -- to keep the Highlanders in it, and Crawford did the rest, equalizing for GL with just under 14 minutes left in normal time and then bundling home a rebound of his own saved penalty kick with three minutes remaining in overtime.

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"Andre made saves that kept us in the game, he has worked hard during the off season and it showed," said head coach Bruno Somma. "He is much improved in all areas of goaltending."

Perez-Santalla traveled all summer with his club team, arriving home three days before the season opener from playing in Florida at Disney's Wide World of Sports -- playing against the best teams in Florida. "Playing at that level of competition allowed me to be ready and on point for our first game," said Perez-Santalla.

He gave GL that necessary lifeline making a handful of massive saves, including a back-to-back sequence that saw him dive to the right to deflect a waist-high missile and then, a few seconds later, made a kick save on a screecher from ten yards out.

"In any situation where the ball is put on target no matter how fast or how close, I think to myself there is no way this ball is getting past me," said Perez-Santalla. "It allows me to be confident and reach my full ability when diving for a shot." 

Crawford, who has committed to play for St. John's University in the fall 2018, made the most of his opportunities and scored on a 30 yard free kick, placing the ball perfectly in the upper 90 top left.  In overtime, Crawford got his toe on his own rebound from a spot on penalty for the victory. 

Dealing with tight pressure is nothing new for Crawford, it just made him work harder to create chances. "Being there were three midfielders and the closest one would always be right on my back it was hard to find the ball," said Crawford. -- "As Summit had the lead, they started pushing more guys forward which allowed me to create more chances. When I did find the ball, I knew to run at the defense and get myself a shot or a pass to goal."

Once GL tied the game, Crawford knew there was "hope to win the game."

"This was a good win for this young team -- ,hopefully we can build on this going forward," said Somma.

Below are comments from Andre and Josiah regarding their past, present and future:

TAPinto: There was a lot of pressure on you during this game with the ball on your side of the field throughout -- do you have a different technique in handling such pressure?

Andre: Of course I feel that pressure when it is a tie game, or we are up by 1 with constant threats on goal. However I know it's a game for fun and I never let the pressure get to my head. I keep myself calm and always in the game. I treat it differently by always being focused and not letting myself be distracted by anything.

TAPinto: Would this win rank as one of the top high school career moments, or do you have a favorite game in your high school career? 

Josiah: I've had a lot of great high school career moments and this one would be up there.

TAPinto: As a goalie, you need to be a leader on the field, how do you communicate with your team to keep them motivated?

Andre: In a tough contested game I am hard on my defenders. If one of them makes a good play I make sure to let them know that what they just did was great. I always tell my back four to calm down so they don't get over excited and cause a reckless foul. I always let them know that no matter what, our defense is keeping us in the game.

TAPinto: What are your goals for this season?

Andre: My goals for this season is to be conference champs. In my season as a sophomore we did it and I expect nothing less also would like to go deep in the county tournament and hopefully reach the finals.

Josiah: I want to be a leader for the team. Work with my team and help them as much as I can.

TAPinto: Do you have a pre-game ritual?

Andre: My pre game ritual consists of listening to the same song (red dot music by mac miller)as soon as I touch the field. It helps get me pumped up and gets me in the zone.

TAPinto: What do you like about the St. John's University soccer program, and what will you need to do to prepare for this next level of play? 

Josiah: They provide everything I need to pursue with my soccer career. The Big East conference is one of the toughest in college soccer so it will help me develop for the next level. After my high school season, I'm going straight into training with the Red Bull u18 Academy and playing my last season with them before college. This will help me prepare for the college level of play.

TAPinto: As a junior, are you looking to play in college? 

Andre:  As of right now I am talking with and also looking at a bunch of schools. Playing soccer in college is a goal of mine so I will be working hard to do so.

TAPinto: Team outlook.

Andre: Being a young inexperienced team is always hard. I have no doubt that we will have a winning record and play great this season. We have talent all around the field and even on the bench. This team is full of really nice kids and I enjoy every minute on the field with them. I am looking forward to playing with them, hopefully into late November.

Josiah: Yes, we are a young team with not a lot of experience, but, it's only a matter of time until the team adjusts.

Editor's Note: TAPinto Summit contributed to the coverage of the home opener game between GL and Summit.

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Delicious Heights Highlander Athlete of the Week is sponsored by Delicious Heights, a family restaurant with three locations; Berkeley Heights, Bedminster and Basking Ridge, where it is part of the Basking Ridge County Club operating a public restaurant with outdoor dining, and acting as the banquet caterer, boasting a facility with panoramic views of the sprawling golf course. Visit our website, www.deliciousheights.com for weekly specials including Happy Hour specials from 3-6pm and daily featured dinner and lunch specials. Delicious Heights....where our only limitations are yours!

Delicious Heights is located at 428 Springfield Avenue in Berkeley Heights. 908.464.3287; 285 Main Street in Bedminster. 908.234.1596; 185 Madisonville Road in Basking Ridge. 908.766.9499.

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