LIVINGSTON, NJ — The wind was gusting but the air was still heavy in uncertainty for the Livingston girls soccer team as the Lancers took on rival Montclair in the sectional finals of the NJSIAA State Tournament Friday.
Livingston and Montclair were tied 2-2 heading into overtime, yet there was still a minute left on the clock. With one last run, Livingston junior Tori Belcuore played the ball into the corner. Chasing the ball down, she saw a lane to make an impossible cross.
Freshman Kayla Parsons, like many other times this year, calmly and quickly shot the ball over Montclair goalie Gabby Isola’s head. With just 30 seconds left to play, the game was all but over.
The Lancers stunned Montclair with a 3-2 victory, winning the North Jersey Section 1 Group 4 girls’ soccer championship. Livingston had relinquished a 2-0 lead before Parsons game-winner.
“We didn’t feel sorry for ourselves, we didn’t give up too many chances after that and we kept plugging and plugging,” Livingston coach Paul Raiz said. “[Parsons] has been huge for usas a freshman that has been her fifth or sixth game-winning goal. The whole team played their hearts out, they deserved this.”
Megan Leffler and Belcoure had the Lancers’ other two goals of the game, both off of set pieces. Leffler’s came from a corner kick while Belcoure took an impressive header off a free kick.
The wind played a factor for both teams. Prior to Parsons’ last goal, the previous four all came with the wind at their backs. Raiz said both teams had to play smart in how they read and judged the ball.
This was the third time Livingston played Montclair this season, including the final round of the Essex County tournament. The familiarity factor was huge for both sides. Raiz said nothing new was going to happen and that the game depended on how each team battled and who won the one-on-one battles.
The Livingston coach loves the rivalry because both teams have been good and every game is competitive.
Livingston will now take on Ridge, top teams in the state, on Tuesday as the Lancers move on to the group finals of the NJSIAA State Tournament.
“We always have room for improvement, we always talk about improving next game, that’s what has gotten us here,” Raiz said. “It is going to be a battle no matter who we play. I like my team, I’ll take this team against anyone else in the state. Win or lose, they are my team and I love them.”