NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - Any time the New Providence and Gov. Livingston boys soccer programs meet on the pitch, its always an extremely competitive contest.
The game on Saturday afternoon in New Providence was no exception.
New Providence raced to a two-goal halftime lead before Gov. Livingston battled back to force overtime. The Pioneers then prevailed on Youssef Ezzeldin's game-winning goal in the first extra session to earn a 3-2 victory.
"Its always an intense game with them," said New Providence head coach Craig Barclay. "We fought hard to get a 2-0 lead at the half, but they continued to push throughout the game. They did well to even the score and probably deserved the tie but we were able to pull it out."
New Providence (3-2) got on the board first when Mark Elek scored off a scramble midway through the first half. The lead increased to 2-0 when Christian Muller converted a penalty corner kick by Dylan Paniagua just before the half time whistle.
Gov. Livingston (2-2), however, would not go quietly.
The Highlanders cut its deficit to 2-1 when Christian Montes converted a penalty kick 20 minutes into the second half. Gov. Livingston then leveled the game when Fabrizio Marisi scored off a feed from Ethan Proper with about three minutes remaining in regulation despite playing with just 10 players due to a yellow card infraction.
On New Providence's game-winning strike, the play developed when Paniagua took a corner kick that was corralled by Ezzeldin. After a scramble, Ezzeldin then connected on a touch volley into the top corner of the goal just past Highlanders' goalie Connor Bigelow.
Bigelow finished with seven saves while his counterpart, Miguel Garcia, made eight stops for New Providence.
"Miguel made a really good save by diving to his left in the first half," said Barclay. "They had some real good chances and Miguel did another solid job for us."
New Providence has now won three straight games after starting the season 0-2. The Pioneers finished 15-9 a year ago, won the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 1 sectional championship and played for the overall Group 1 state crown where it bowed to Glassboro.
This year's team has little in common with that group personnel-wise.
"We graduated 18 seniors from last year and have six sophomore starters this season," said Barclay, now in his second year at the helm. "Since they're so inexperienced we're trying not to put too much pressure on them but the boys have really stepped up so far."
Elek leads the Pioneers in scoring with five goals while Ezzeldin has scored four and both seniors have hat tricks to their credit thus far this season.
New Providence will be back in action on Tuesday, Sept. 17 when it travels to Summit to take on Oratory Prep at 4 p.m. The Pioneers will then play non-conference games home against Caldwell (Sept. 19 at 4 p.m.) and at Voorhees in Glen Gardner (Sept. 21 at 10 a.m.).
"We want to face good teams from all over," Barclay stated. "That can only help us come tournament time."
Gov. Livingston will seek to get back to its winning ways on Tuesday when it takes on Johnson in Clark at 4 p.m. The Highlanders will then play host to Union on Thursday, Sept. 19 at 4 p.m.
"Gov. Livingston is a very good and competitive team," said Barclay. "They have some real good players and I'm sure they'll have a successful season."