BERKELEY HEIGHTS – The defense will now commence for the Gov. Livingston girls’ soccer team.

The Lady Highlanders closed out their regular season last week with a 2-0 victory over Elizabeth, improving to 16-2 overall. It marked their third straight victory since a 2-1 setback against Oak Knoll in the quarterfinal round of the Union County Tournament two weeks ago.

“We are excited,” said Gov. Livingston coach Mike Roof. “I really look forward to this time of year.  We are ready to get started.”

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Those thoughts are hardly surprising since the Lady Highlanders marched to the NJSIAA Group 2 state championship with a thrilling 3-2 victory over Ramsey on Nov. 18 of last year at Kean University in Union. It was a 26-yard volley by Catalina Abusada with just over a minute remaining in regulation that snapped a 2-2 tie and delivered the crown.

 The second-seeded Lady Highlanders will now begin their quest for a second straight sectional title when they play host to 15th-seeded Hillside today in the opening round of the Central Jersey, Group 2 tournament.

In the regular season finish Caitlin Colendenski and Allie Sciacchitano each collected a goal and Sarah Foy with seven saves for the Lady Highlanders against Elizabeth. It marked the third straight win since 2-1 loss to Oak Knoll in double OT in the UCT quarterfinal round two weeks ago.

Last year’s memorable state tournament run was memorable indeed, but Roof and his coaching staff are aware there will be no surprise factor this fall.

“It makes other teams aware of what we can do. We definitely are not sneaking up on anybody this time, but it does give our girls confidence in knowing we’ve been here before and won it all. We are emphasizing not to overdo anything or try to do too much. At this time, you’re one and done and our teams knows that.

“Hopefully, we can use what we went through last year to push us this time.”

Sciacchitano and Colendenski have been superb leaders along with Foy in goal. Freshman Caroline Freer has emerged as a solid scoring addition after replacing the injured Allie Post at center-midfield early this season. Post suffered a broken bone in her foot and was unable to return this season.

The Lady Highlanders are also hoping that talented Kaylee Vreeland could return soon after suffering an elbow injury last month.

“We had injuries to some key players, but we’ve been very solid throughout the lineup this year as a team,” Roof said. “It’s really been everyone and we’ve been impressed with what they’ve been able to accomplish.

“It’s a new year with the state tournament so can’t just assume you’ll have success. If we can hold our nerves and be consistent, we will do well in our section.”