BERKELEY HEIGHTS—Ethan Proper is quite familiar now with being marked in suffocating fashion.
The high-scoring Gov. Livingston senior forward was held scoreless but the customary tight defense and strong goaltending from the duo of Jack Granelli and Colin Goldbeck combined to make five saves as the Highlanders battled to a scoreless tie against neighboring rival New Providence on Saturday.
“It was tough today because we were pretty unlucky on offense,” said Proper, who leads the Highlanders with seven goals and two assists in four games. “We created some offense and had some chances, but we couldn’t finish. I had a guy who was man-marking me the entire game, and it gets tougher every game to get open. Teams usually have some sort of plan to defend me with one or two guys.
“I have to try certain things and maybe make myself a decoy to open up space for my teammates. I need to try and distribute the ball more. Maybe try and make runs and get the ball to someone else who has space."
The empty space on the final stat sheet wasn’t for a lack of effort from the Highlanders, now 2-1-1.
“We had some opportunities in the first half, and we felt like we controlled the game,” said Gov. Livingston assistant coach Kevin Fontana. “We were able to move the ball and had multiple chances at times, but we missed wide or didn’t have a guy in the right spot. We ended up giving away some good chances on offense.”
Although the attack created some pressure and came up empty on the scoreboard the Gov. Livingston defenders were again on top of their game. It’s not surprising, either, as the defensive third was expected to be the team’s strength.
New Providence was not able to create much on the attack against experienced senior Gov. Livingston senior defenders Rafe Barnum, J.T. Naldi and Matt Chin and sophomore Colin Kesler. Sophomore midfielder Alexander Yablonovskiy also had a strong game defensively.
“Defensively our entire back line was outstanding,” Fontana said. “It was another game where we didn’t give up a goal but struggled a bit to finish on offense. We felt at the beginning of the year that defense was our strength.
“With New Providence it was a battle, as usual. It was a rough, physical game much of the time. These players all know each other and grew up playing together, so it doesn’t make it easy. It’s always one of the big games for both teams, a game to enjoy each year, and they were definitely marking Ethan closely all the way.”
Proper is well aware of his team’s defensive sturdiness, especially against rival New Providence.
“Our defense was very good,” observed Proper. “It’s a very strong part of our game and today they looked so good. We didn’t allow a goal and I think New Providence might have had really one scoring chance. We hadn’t seen them play yet so we weren’t sure what to expect. But New Providence is always a big game.”
The Highlanders will play host to Rahway on Oct. 20 before traveling to Summit to battle Oratory Prep on Oct. 22.