BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – The West Essex girls’ soccer team scored three second-half goals, as the No. 8 Knights shocked No. 4 Gov. Livingston High School in the NJSIAA North Jersey 2, Group 3 semifinals on Monday.
West Essex senior forward Erica Perrotta recorded a hat trick, including two goals in the final 40 minutes of action, to lead the Knights to their second consecutive upset victory in the tournament.
“Last Thursday we beat the No. 1 seed, so I think after beating the No. 1 seed, we feel like anything is possible,” West Essex’s first-year head coach Toni-Anne Cavallo said. “We play in a really tough conference, so the girls were prepared.”
After seeing the first half, Cavollo thought her team was lucky to be in the game. West Essex put pressure on the GL back line early, but could not convert. However, the Highlanders put together scoring chance, after scoring chance before eventually breaking through.
In the 27th minute, Gov. Livingston senior Lauren Jankowski scored on a penalty kick after being taken down in the West Essex defensive box. However, the Highlander lead did not last long.
Less than 10 minutes later, Perrotta notched her first of the game when she drove down the left sideline before launching a kick past GL keeper Olivia Emanuel.
Highlander head coach Mike Roof came away frustrated from the first half because his team didn’t convert on their opportunities.
“I was really, really worried about the fact that we didn’t take our chances in the first half,” Roof said. “To me, this game could have been over at halftime realistically if we were more clinical. That’s been a problem for us at times, even in our first two state games.”
The Knights dominated the final 40 minutes, putting continuous pressure on Emanuel and the GL defensive front. Despite making seven saves in the game, West Essex’s offensive force was too much.
Perrotta broke the tie in the 47th minute after streaking down the right sideline.
Then, after Nina Sisco made it a 3-1 game on a penalty kick in the 67th, Perrotta scored the hat trick four minutes later.
“Its my senior year, so I definitely want to make it to the state final and we did,” Perrotta said. “We’ve worked so hard this whole season, since August 13 and we finally have a chance to prove ourselves to this school.”
The loss ends a year of adversity for Gov. Livingston, where the team lost several key players to injury before and during the season. Roof said, injuries aside, this was a winnable game.
“Even with injuries, we’re clearly good enough to win this game today,” Roof said. “We should of [won], but that’s what happens when you don’t take your opportunities, especially in this sport.”
West Essex plays at No. 3 West Morris in Thursday’s section final, where the winner moves on to the Group 3 Tournament.